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Featured research projects

Street Life: Using York's Historic High Streets as Heritage Catalysts for Community Renewal

In collaboration with Professor Rachel Cowgill (Music) and Dr Kate Giles (Archaeology), Professor Helen Smith is leading a major project, funded by the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities.

One of the UK’s most ancient cities, York has an extraordinary heritage and resilient communities. But key parts of York’s civic history are being forgotten, and its city centre faces a crisis rooted in changing technology, community needs and consumer trends, made more urgent by Covid-19. 

‘Street Life: Using York's Historic High Streets as Heritage Catalysts for Community Renewal’ is an ambitious partnership bringing together multiple stakeholders. It will create innovative, immersive experiences to revitalise Coney Street, combining digital innovation and physical engagement. Pop-up activities and virtual experiences will connect civic spaces to the community, transform the streetscape and its sounds, repurpose empty units, and forge links between retail premises and creative, heritage-led regeneration.

Helen's strand of the project celebrates and seeks to revitalise York’s long history of print, which reaches from the sixteenth century to the present day. The research team will work together to recover York’s printing heritage and engage a wider community in exploring York’s printing history, with an emphasis on oral histories and heritage. Together we will create a temporary printing museum and gallery, planned to run from late March / early April until the end of June 2022, on Coney Street in the historic heart of York. This space will include a printing press and associated equipment, alongside a gallery of contemporary printing and two exhibitions relating to fine press printing. The team will offer workshops to engage members of marginalised and underrepresented communities and produce new creative work.

Unlocking the Mary Hamilton Papers

Mary Hamilton by Saunders, From a miniature in a ring given by her to Mr. John Dickenson after their engagement Frontispiece to Mary Hamilton, afterwards Mrs. John Dickenson, at Court and at Home, from Letters and Diaries 1756 to 1816, edited by her great-granddaughters Elizabeth and Florence Anson (John Murray, 1925).

Sophie Coulombeau is a Co-Investigator for this three-year project, funded by a Standard Research Grant from the AHRC. The project is based at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library, Manchester, and the Principal Investigator is Hannah Barker of the University of Manchester. The other project team members are David Denison, Nuria Yáñez-Bouza, Cassandra Ulph, Tino Oudesluijs and Christine Wallis. 

This project exploits an almost untouched archive to answer important questions about reading, letter-writing and everyday language in Georgian England and the contribution made by social networks to these significant cultural practices. The Mary Hamilton Papers are scattered over eleven libraries in Britain and the UK: this project will reunite these papers in a complete, Open-Access scholarly edition. 

Coulombeau's role in this project is to direct a strand of research addressing evidence of reading practices within Hamilton's archive and social networks. She is also responsible, more generally, for the project's Impact agenda - see, for example, recent press coverage in the Times and the Telegraph. Subject to availability, she co-supervises internships and volunteer placements that give interested students first-hand experience of digitally transcribing eighteenth-century manuscripts.

Decolonial Feminisms in Contemporary Latin American Literature

Natasha Tanna holds a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship for the project ‘Decolonial Feminisms in Contemporary Latin American Literature’. The project asks how literature connects with social movements and activism in areas suffering extreme structural and economic inequalities. Natasha’s research considers how individual and collaborative literary creation may be a tool for collective healing from experiences of violence, such as femicide, disappearance, and ecological destruction. She considers how the community-based nature of decolonial feminist activism (vs the emphasis on the individual in liberal feminisms) shapes creative forms in the region through collaborative processes, including co-authorship, plagiarism, translation, intertextuality, and anonymity. She also asks what is at stake in the often utopian celebration of the dissolution of a single individual author in contexts of literal disappearance. In the project texts created in the context of grassroots organising and writing workshops are analysed alongside works by more established writers such as Mexican Cristina Rivera Garza, Puerto Rican Mayra Santos-Febres, and Dominican Rita Indiana. The project also explores the limits of conventional scholarly form, drawing on the work of writers such as Chicana Gloria Anzaldúa, who blurs distinctions between poetic, theoretical, and historical writing in her analysis of the US-Mexico border.

Radio Literature and the Radiophonic Imagination in Europe, 1924-1939

Emilie Morin is PI for this Leverhulme Research Fellowship, which will span from September 2021 to May 2022. The project revolves around the completion of Early Radio: An Anthology of European Texts and Translations, which Morin is editing for Edinburgh University Press. Radio has always crossed linguistic and cultural boundaries; in Europe especially, radio was thoroughly European from the beginning, and its public was defined by wave frequencies rather than national borders. Yet this transnational history is largely uncharted, as radio studies has mostly focused on national contexts and monolingual perspectives. The aim of this project is to shed a different light on radio’s transnational and multilingual history, by bringing together neglected materials (primarily from early British, Italian, French and German radio cultures) that take readers beyond the limits of their own culture and language. The project offers a new account of radio’s transnational history and draws attention to the role played by those who have been called, in another context, the ‘nobodies of radio art’: writers, journalists, sound engineers, producers, actors and radio enthusiasts from various walks of life who were seized by a passion for radio during the interwar period. The project considers how these men and women thought about the world’s new interconnectedness, how they related their attempts to explore radio’s artistic potential, and how they promoted radio as a culturally revolutionary medium.

Digital Index of Middle English Verse

Linne Mooney, Emerita Professor in the Department, has been awarded an Emeritus Grant by the Leverhulme Trust to pay for travel and subsistence so that she can complete entries relating to Middle English verse in manuscripts in the British Library for the Digital Index of Middle English Verse ( of which she is the principal editor. 

The DIMEV (compiled with Daniel Mosser with the help of research assistants Elizabeth Solopova and Deborah Thorpe) records the first and last lines of all English poetry written between 1250 and 1525, giving information about the manuscripts in which each work survives. Since Middle English poetry was written before the advent of print, the manuscript witnesses each differ slightly from one another. Textual scholars of Middle English literature need to know where these manuscript witnesses are now kept so that they can study all of the surviving evidence for each text. 

An original Index of Middle English Verse was published in 1940 with a Supplement in 1965, and a revised New Index of Middle English Verse was published in 2005; but the DIMEV, freely accessible at, corrects and enlarges upon all of these and is now the standard reference work in the field. 

Professor Mooney told us: ‘I’m very pleased to have been awarded this Emeritus Grant by the Leverhulme Trust. It will be a great help to my editorship of the Digital Index of Middle English Verse.’ 

With this support from the Leverhulme Trust, Professor Mooney will make monthly three-day trips to London to conduct research in the British Library Manuscripts Reading Room over the next two years to complete the entries for the DIMEV.

Storying Relationships

Claire Chambers is a Co-Investigator for Storying Relationships, an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded project. Storying Relationships examines how young men and women in British Pakistani Muslim communities understand and explore relationships in terms of both attitudes and practices, through the stories they consume and produce. The Principal Investigator is Professor Richard Phillips of the University of Sheffield, from where the project is run. The project team also comprises Dr Nafhesa AliProfessor Peter Hopkins, and Dr Raksha Pande. The project asks how young British Muslims (aged 16-30), particularly those with Pakistani heritage, talk and think about their personal relationships. It additionally explores the role of stories and storytelling in this, focusing on relationship stories that are told in everyday life (with friends, for example) and also media such as fiction, films, and radio. At the moment the project team is conducting individual interviews with young people and organisations across Tyne and Wear, Glasgow, and Yorkshire. They will be starting creative workshops in Stage 2 (commencing May 2017) where young people involved in the project will work alongside published authors to create and share stories.

See archive of previous projects.