Textual analysis as a document of research

Research output: Non-Textual OutputExhibition


What are the documents of research in the field of English Literature? Of course the obvious answer is the text, primary or secondary. But whilst contemplating a project such as a PhD how do we, as literary scholars, work through what we will and won’t include and which aspects of the textual analysis become part of the finished project? Peter Ackroyd’s London: The Biography is one of the first texts I was working with at the beginning of my PhD. I remember seeing it in a Waterstones bookstore in Bloomsbury, following one of my first supervisory meetings at the British Library. The process of wondering through the streets and the bookshops of my subject matter somehow felt like part of my research, and at the beginning of the process I thought the writings of Ackroyd was going to be integral. I wrote two draft chapters on his work, but the direction of the thesis changed, and though the London setting remained significant, Ackroyd’s texts, like the streets of the city itself, became more thresholds for wider theoretical engagement, as opposed to subject matter. In the final thesis I refer to Ackroyd seventeen times. Yet, this copy of London: The Biography reminds me of the many hours spent meandering not only through the city streets, or the many and the various literary representations, but also the more general various lines of enquiry, as I considered and reconsidered many approaches, eventually working through to map the literature of the city in my own way. One of the first skills we learn as literary scholars is that of ‘active reading’ as we create our own text almost symbiotically with the primary reading. This document, of me learning about my subject, and how to be a literary scholar, reminds me of the on-going process and evolution of my research methods. Thankfully, the many hours of work which didn’t make the final PhD went on to inform the design of the undergraduate module, ‘Urban Visions’. Positioning the module guide alongside Ackroyd’s text reminds me of the process of a PhD in literature, in that many different thoughts are explored, until a very select and defined approach is finally decided on. Thankfully, rejected work can often find a different life beyond the thesis, and is, after all, a necessary part of the process. Claire Allen, PhD: Beyond Postmodernism: London Fiction at the Millennium
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2018
EventWithout End: Documents of Research - The University of Northampton, Northampton, United Kingdom
Duration: 16 Feb 201816 Feb 2018


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