Research centre lead

Arran Stibbe, Professor of Ecological Linguistics


Robin Griffiths, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies

John Hughes, Professor of 19th Century Literature

Melanie Ilic, Professor of Soviet History

Jessica Iubini-Hampton, Student of English Language and Linguistics

Roy Jackson, Reader in Philosophy of Religion

Lania Knight, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing

Kate Littlewood, Senior Lecturer in Drama

Wendy Russell, Senior Lecturer in Play and Playwork

Hilary Weeks, Senior Lecturer in English Literature


Sheona Beaumont, Doctoral Candidate, School of Humanities. Sheona is both a research student and professional artist. Her doctorate explores visual representations of biblical imagery, particularly in photography and photo-based media. Within the context of the Centre, Sheona brings a particular focus on modern photographic expressions of being human considered in terms of the spirituality of image-based, media-led experiences.

Charlotte Beyer, Senior Lecturer in English Literature. Charlotte Beyer’s research projects and publications focus on the following subjects: crime, motherhood and maternal perspectives, violence, mythology, gender, and postcolonialism. Her current research explores the parameters of genre fiction, particular its gender-political dimension.

Andrew Bick, Senior Lecturer in Painting. Andrew is an artist and curator. His art and curatorial practice is based on a critical analysis of the complex and ambivalent nature of our relationship to late modernism. He is research coordinator for Practice as Research within the School of Art and Design and is leading staff investigation in to the human aspect of abstract and non-representational art, its legacies, currency as practice and impact on society and the individual.

Michelle Brana-Straw. Michelle’s research concentrates on the preservation and archiving of rural dialects, particularly the Forest of Dean and the Suffolk dialects. Her research has a strong ethnographic component, working with community groups to capture collective and individual memories through oral histories of both insiders and migrants.

Kirsten Daly, Senior Lecturer in English Studies (Romanticism)

Rosalind Davie, PhD student, Faculty of Arts and Technology. Rosalind is researching the life and work of early twentieth-century novelist and poet Mary Webb. Her re-evaluation of the work centres on Webb’s interest in the relationship between human beings and the natural world. Webb’s concerns with the experience of nature as sacral can be read as anticipating later feminist spirituality, while her pantheism offers a vision for humanity that clearly anticipates eco-critical thought. Above all, at the heart of these aspects of her work is a central focus on the numinous experience of place that is fundamentally linked, in these and other ways, to the idea of being human, and to the work of the Centre.

Philip Esler, Professor Portland Chair in New Testament Studies. Philip’s interest in ‘Being Human’ focuses on past life and how it shapes our present. He specialises in the use of the social sciences (especially sociology, anthropology and social psychology) to throw new light on biblical texts and extra-biblical texts. He has written extensively on Luke-Acts, Paul’s letters and more recently Matthew from this perspective. At present he is completing a manuscript (under contract with Oxford University Press) on four legal papyri in Nabatean Aramaic found near the Dead Sea in 1961.

Angela France, Lecturer in Creative Writing

Abigail Gardner, Principal Lecturer in Popular Music and Media. Abigail works on music and ageing, music video and music documentary. She has also spent many years researching and writing about PJ Harvey and is now looking at her recent output in relation to manifestations of Englishness.

Paul Hackett, Visiting Professor in Psychology. Paul’s research is concerned with the ways in which we ask questions and other methodological issues associated with quantitative, qualitative, mixed method and practice-based research. He is author of 10 books and many articles and writes about understanding experience through structured ontologies where his research has addressed such areas as abstract fine art and environmental issues. He is at present concerned with the behaviour of birds and with the way in which human beings experience and understand birds and other aspects of nature and non-human animals.

David R. Howell, Lecturer in Early Modern History. David’s research covers a broad range of topics and is actively engaged in archaeological, historical and heritage research projects. His recent work has focused on the creation of contemporary national identities through the use heritage resources and related historical narratives, considering examples in Wales, Greenland and Iceland. He is currently exploring ways in which heritage sites have been used of by homeless communities, in historical and contemporary contexts.

John Hughes, Professor of 19th Century English Literature. John’s research centres on poetry of the ‘long’ nineteenth-century, and sets out to draw together critical and philosophical perspectives so as to explore the affective dimensions of literature. The relations between this, and ideas of the human, are strong, and evident in past publications. Recently he has returned to working on William Wordsworth and Thomas Hardy, centring on issues of voice and finitude. Another strand in his work of relevance to the Centre is his recent work on Bob Dylan, which includes a book and several articles/chapters.

Melanie Ilic, Professor of Soviet History. Melanie’s research focuses, in part, on Soviet women’s history. In relation to Being Human, Melanie is currently conducting research into ‘everyday lives’ through an examination of Soviet women’s narratives. This research follows on from an oral history project that led to the publication of Life Stories of Soviet Women: the Interwar Generation (2013). She is also co-editor of a volume of essays on ethics and methodology in oral history and memory studies: The Soviet Past in the Post-Socialist Present (2015). Another strand of her research focuses on ‘victim studies’ of the Great Terror in the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Paul Innes, Academic Subject Leader: Literary and Critical Studies

Roy Jackson, Reader in Philosophy of Religion. Roy’s book Nietzsche and Islam (2007) focuses on the Nietzschean concept of the ‘Overman’ (Ubermensch) and how this relates to the Islamic concept of the ‘Perfect Human’ (insan al-kamil). Another book Mawlana Mawdudi and Political Islam (2011) further explores these themes in the political context, i.e. what are the political implication in the quest for human ideas of perfection, specifically the ‘Perfect Human’ ideal in Mawdudi’ writings. More recently, Roy’s research has been on the links between philosophical and religious notions of human perfection/overcoming and the importance of solitude.

D. D. Johnstone, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing. D.D. Johnston is the author of three novels. His work contemplates free will, historical change, and radical alternatives to hierarchical capitalism. He is currently writing a travelogue that explores Europe’s history of disobedience. His website is at

Tyler Keevil, Academic Course Leader: English Language and Creative Writing

Lania Knight, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing. Lania is currently editing her novel, Remnant, which is set in the near-ish future in the American Midwest. The novel examines issues of agriculture, sustainability, cloning, individual liberty and the changing environment. Remnant relates to ‘being human’ in that it questions what it means to be an individual, to have an independent will, to make choices for our own lives and those of others, as well as looking at the consequences of those choices.

William Large, FRSA Reader in Continental Philosophy. Dr Large’s research is in the area of philosophy and specifically continental philosophy. He specialises in the work of the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas whose subject is ethics, which he understands as the responsibility each one us has for the other and which is the very basis of our humanity. Dr Large is also interested in the philosophy of religion and contemporary atheism. What does it mean to live in a world without God and can we interpret it to suggest more than simply the triumph of secular values?

Adrian Long, Academic Subject Leader: Religious, Philosophical and Historical Studies

Jonathan Marshall, Senior Lecturer in English Language. Jonathan’s research interests are directly related to the concept of ‘being human’ as they deal with how people use language to conceptualise and understand the world they live in, and how they communicate with others, to provide or request information, to persuade, and amuse. His main focus has been on the social motivations for language change or maintenance, using the Labovian framework of quantification, to test for correlations between sociological factors and language change. He has looked at the language of internet discussion forums, and also how place names along the Thames-Severn Canal originated.

Gordon Mcconville, Professor of Old Testament Theology

Nigel Mcloughlin, Professor of Creativity and Poetics

Rowan Middleton, part time lecturer in Creative Writing and English Language. Rowan’s interests are in creative writing, contemporary poetry and ecocriticism. Recent critical work has focussed on the relationship between human self and world in Alice Oswald’s Dart. Oswald’s ‘fragmented’ portrayal of the Dart, its environs and inhabitants is viewed as a vision of ‘place’ that is fluid and interconnected rather than static and isolated. Rowan’s poetry has been widely published in journals such as Acumen, The London Magazine and Planet. There is a strong focus on the relationship between human and non-human worlds, often involving mythology, folklore and the environment.

Gerard Moorey, Lecturer in Media. Gerard’s research focuses on recorded music and its relationship to other media, with an emphasis in recent publications on the ‘literary soundtrack’ and representations of the music industry in the contemporary novel. His PhD thesis, Everyday Reveries: Recorded Music, Memory, and Emotion, has an obvious bearing on notions of the human, particularly in its ethnomusicological approach to the question of recorded music’s significance when heard, by chance, in public space.

Vicky Morrisroe, Senior Lecturer in History

Christian O’Connell, Academic Course Leader in History. Primarily a cultural historian, Christian is interested in the diffusion of African American culture both in Europe, exploring how cultural exchange relates to social and political constructions of race. His first book entitled Blues, How Do You Do? Paul Oliver and the Transatlantic Story of the Blues (University of Michigan Press, 2015) examined the emergence of transatlantic scholarship on African American blues music. Christian is an Associate Fellow at UCL’s Institute of the Americas, where he has been working on representations of the American South in Britain. He is also beginning a new project on the transatlantic exchange in Italy 1930-60 as part of a Fulbright-Elon Scholar award.

Pekka Pitkänen, Senior Lecturer in Theology. Pekka’s research focuses on biblical studies and the history of ancient Israel and its environs in late second millennium BCE. Much of his work involves comparative perspectives across the wider ancient Near Eastern area, also utilising sociological and anthropological perspectives. His commentary on Joshua (2010) devoted attention to the question of violence. His most recent focus has been on reinterpreting the early history of ancient Israel and its environs based on a settler colonial perspective.

Julia Peck, Academic Subject Leader in Photography. Julia’s research into the representation of the natural world includes the inter-relationship between humans and their environment. Using political ecologies as a framework for developing analyses of existing practices on photography, the environment and the natural world, Julia also produces practice-based research. Her latest project examines Dungeness as a complex ecological site that includes numerous complex relationships, including how industries (including the nuclear power station and cement manufacture) connect the site to those who live beyond the site’s boundaries.

Martin Randall, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing. Martin’s research interests revolve principally on the representation of traumatic historical events. His PhD thesis examined representations of the Holocaust in 1990s British fiction and his 2011 monograph 9/11 & the Literature of Terror analysed how the WTC attacks have been portrayed in fiction, poetry, playwriting, cinema and photography. He has published short fiction and the opening chapter to his novel-in-progress Oostende and is currently researching the history of journalistic photography and the Algerian Civil War of the 1990s.

Melissa Raphael, Professor of Jewish Theology. Melissa’s research examines how the humanity of the human is stabilised both against its degradation and its infinition or idolization. While two of her earlier books focussed on how concepts of female divinity enabled women to name and own transformative power within their own cultural and biological experience, her book The Female Face of God in Auschwitz (2003) interpreted Jewish women’s resistance to the Nazis’ radical assault on their humanity from a Jewish theological perspective. Her book Judaism and the Visual Image (2009) explored how Jewish art’s negotiation of the biblical Second Commandment produces counter-idolatrous representations of the human. Melissa has recently published a number of articles arguing that feminist idoloclasm has been, and remains, central to the liberation of women from ideologies of femininity that occlude their full humanity.

Cas Soper, PhD research student.  Cas is investigating the evolutionary origins of suicidality and the adaptive defences that may have emerged to protect humans from deliberate self-killing.  In particular, Cas is assessing the possibility that some symptoms of common mental ‘disorders’ may be understood as protective anti-suicide reactions to the experience of emotional pain, and that other features of human psychological make-up may also constitute a wider suicide prevention systems – such as self-serving self-deception; psychodynamic defence mechanisms; the homeostasis of affect; optimism bias; meaning- and purpose-in life; and some aspects of religiosity and superstition.

Arran Stibbe, Professor in Ecological Linguistics. Arran’s research focuses on aspects of being human that humans share with other animals: being embodied, having emotions, and, importantly, depending on a physical environment for our continued existence. In particular, his research examines how language encodes the stories that we live by, and shapes how we see ourselves and our relationship with other animals and the environment. This involves linguistic analysis of a wide range of discourses from the objectifying language of animal product industries to the inspirational language of nature writing.

Simon Turner, Senior Lecturer in Popular Music. For the past twenty three years, Simon has been a composer, audio specialist, sound designer and educator. He was a pivotal member of the BBC Digital Storytelling/Telling Lives project from its inception in 2001 until 2007, heading up the audio and composition as well as developing the form for training, on-line distribution and broadcast, and which went on to win a BAFTA for Best New Media in 2006. He has been a featured composer at the Cheltenham Music festival, written music and sound design for television, film, theatre, radio and on-line and multi-media.

David Webster, Principle Lecturer in Religion, Philosophy and Ethics. David’s work takes him from the study of ancient Pali texts, to working with students looking at Satanism in online contexts. He is also intrigued by social media developments and their implications for both education and society more widely.

Hilary Weeks, Senior Lecturer in English Literature. Hilary works mainly in nineteenth-century literature, as well as travel writing and aesthetics. She’s particularly interested in affinities across European culture and between Romantic and Victorian literature; word and image; language and built spaces.

Amanda Williamson – Dr. Amanda Williamson completed her PhD in spirituality in the professional field of Somatic Movement Dance Education and Therapy. Her research is inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary in approach, spanning cultural studies, somatic movement dance therapy, spiritual feminism, phenomenology and new materialism. She is particularly interested in humanistic medicine and has a passion for the relationship between art, health, somatics, dance and spirituality. More recently she has been working with researchers in African diasporic and indigenous pacific research, ethnographic somatic studies, and indigenous somatic knowledges. She is an internationally registered ‘Somatic Movement Educator and Therapist’ and considered one of the historical pioneers leading this profession globally; she is prolifically documented in dance history books and academic articles as a leader in this therapeutic and artistic field. Her research is of international impact and research.

Linda Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Church History. Linda’s research is concerned with the complex relationship between gender and faith within Nonconformist churches since 1825 and specifically how churches both restricted the role of women and provided a ‘third sphere’ which allowed female flourishing. Her book Constrained by Zeal (2000) focused on these issues in four denominations in the mid-nineteenth century. A different strand of her research is reflected in another publication: ‘Women, Men and Fundamentalism in England during the 1920s and 30s’, in Jones and Bebbington, eds., Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism in the United Kingdom in the Twentieth Century (2013). Linda is currently investigating gender relations within evangelicalism in the late twentieth century.