I’m a writer and researcher interested in literary reading, consciousness, and mental health, as well as an academic writing/performance coach and a recovery coach for people with restrictive eating disorders. At the University of Oxford, I am a Research Associate at The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH). I designed and (until summer 2021) used to run the Baillie Gifford Writing Partnerships Programme for the Humanities Division. For 2020-22 I’m also an Associate of Pembroke College, Oxford.
My academic background is originally in French and German, more recently in cognitive literary studies (the study of how human minds interact with literary texts). I write a blog on eating disorders called A Hunger Artist for Psychology Today, and have a separate site, hungerartist.org, where I gather together the strands of my work focused specifically on disordered eating and recovery.
Other current projects include:
- Conducting research (theoretical and empirical) on whether reading fictional (or other narrative or linguistic) texts can have positive and/or negative effects on people with eating disorders, or vulnerable to them
- Running a pre-publication study on a book I wrote about anorexia, called The Hungry Anorexic (neither self-help nor memoir but hopefully something more interesting), to assess whether or not it’s ethically responsible to publish it (given the main research finding I’ve made in this area is that most people with eating disorders find reading most fiction and memoirs about eating disorders much more harmful than helpful) [if you’re interested, we still need participants!]
- Developing behaviour-focused models of mental illness inspired by dynamical systems theory, pushing back against the general tendency to ignore behaviour in favour of psychologizing
And some recent(ish) projects were:
- Co-authoring the third edition of the world’s leading textbook on consciousness, Consciousness: An Introduction, with Susan Blackmore (published April 2018) [terrifyingly, the publishers were recently in touch about the 4th edition!]
- Working with the University of Oxford Careers Service on a range of projects to support students and early-career academics, including an initiative called Overcoming a Sense of Academic Failure (which includes a workbook and a series of five audio podcasts) and a blog post series on resilience
- Creating a podcast miniseries called Textual Therapies exploring the interactions between texts and health
As you can see, there’s quite a bit going on here, and making it cohere (and fit into the time I’m willing to give it) is fun but sometimes hard. In case you’re interested in exploring whether some kind of multistranded career structure might work for you, I wrote a little piece on the pleasures and the difficulties of managing a ‘portfolio career’ for The Oxford Guide to Careers 2019, and another for the British Academy’s case study series on the career pathways of doctoral graduates. You can find more resources on this topic, including a workbook I created, on the Oxford Careers Service website here.
I live in a narrowboat on the river Thames in Oxford. I sometimes long to be walking the vast expanses of the San Gabriels, but I find respite from the laptop screen in taking my boat up- or downriver, taking my convertible out for a spin, lifting heavy weights in my new lockdown-friendly marina gym, or just inviting someone round for negronis.