am a member of the
Faculty of Medieval and Modern
Languages at the University of Oxford, and
research the intersections between mental health and fiction-reading
(see below), as well as writing a book on consciousness and a blog on eating disorders. Last year I was Postdoctoral Training
for the Humanities Division, responsible for developing training and
support provision for all humanities early-career academics at Oxford.
I am now also exploring the possibility of creating an app to support
recovery from anorexia with total calorie counts or bodyweight targets;
you can read more here.
My primary research activity at the moment brings together my professional
background in cognitive literary studies and my personal experience of anorexia
in a project at the boundary of literary studies, experimental
psychology, and psychiatry. The project focuses on the relationships between
eating disorders and fiction, in particular two connected questions:
1) Does a personal history of eating disorder affect how people read and
2) Can reading fiction influence eating-disorder outcomes, and if so how?
You can read more about my research
academic year I was a Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the Oxford Research Centre in the
Humanities (TORCH). The project, entitled
and Real-Life Reading, involved theoretical, empirical, and outreach work conceived and
conducted in partnership with the eating-disorders charity
Beat. In 2015-16 I also co-convened a reading group 'Books, Minds, and
which brought together academics and others for weekly reading-aloud of
fiction by authors including Dostoevsky and Ted Chiang. We hope to
publish the results of our preliminary data-gathering soon.
From 2010 to 2014 I was a Junior Research Fellow in Modern Languages (French and German) at
College, Oxford. I have a BA in French and German from the University of
Oxford (2004), as well as a Masters (MSt) in European Literature (German, 2006) and a
DPhil in German (2010), both also from Oxford.
current research builds on my previous work in cognitive literary studies, which
explored the experiences we have when we read fiction, and in particular what makes some fictional texts seem realistic
and others not. I developed a scientifically
informed approach to investigating how readers respond to textual
features, using the framework of what I call 'cognitive realism' (the extent to
which a text's evocation of cognition corresponds to how our minds actually
work). My first monograph,
Kafka's Cognitive Realism, put these principles into practice in
the context of Kafka and enactive cognition, particularly visual perception; it was published by Routledge in
February 2014. (You can listen to me talk about the book and why I wrote it here.) I then went on to consider other realms of cognition, like
memory, in other authors and literary traditions, with the aim of starting to
answer the question of whether the periods of literary Realism and Modernism are
as different as is often assumed.
My current project
means a lot to me because it brings together
two important parts of my life, my love of literature and my personal history of
mental (and physical) illness, and because it has the potential to make a
difference to real people suffering from serious illnesses within and beyond
feel strongly that the academic world could and should do much more to address
the widespread stigma and secrecy surrounding mental health, and do all I can to
be open and honest about the
realities of mental illness and health as I see them.
For six years I lived on a narrowboat
in Oxford, and I now split my leisure time - when not
powerlifting - between
boat, convertible, and motorhome.