Northern Voices

Northern Voices

The Northern Voices cluster brings together researchers from both sides of the English Department – language and literature – who work on the writing, speech, history and landscape of the North of England from the medieval period to the present day. This includes projects which focus on specific times and places within the North. It also includes projects which take a broader historical and geographical view of Northern England. We are interested in the North both as an idea that has changed over time and as a heterogeneous social, geographical and cultural environment.

It is clear that substantial regional inequalities in the UK (see for instance the Due North report, 2014) have led to the marginalisation of the voices of many in Northern England, especially those already disadvantaged by structural inequalities related to income, race and gender. These individual voices are often missing from much of the debate surrounding the North-South divide. Indeed, the political rhetoric of the North-South divide and the stereotyping arising therefrom have tended to de-emphasise the connectedness of the North of England to the rest of the world, presenting it instead inward-looking, parochial and jingoistic. This has further contributed to the marginalisation of individual voices in the North (see for instance Berry and Giovanni 2017 and Jopling 2019). The need has never been greater, therefore, for research projects which interrogate received ideas of Northern culture and offer compelling alternative visions of its language, literature and history.

The research of our members includes work on the language of Northern England, from the history of Yorkshire dialect to the ways in which Liverpool dialect is used and perceived in schools in the Merseyside area. Our literary research examines writers whose works have sustainedly engaged with the landscapes, history and people of the North, including the Gawain-poet, the Abolitionist poets of Romantic-era Liverpool, Elizabeth Gaskell, the Brontës, A. S. J. Tessumond and Ted Hughes,as well contemporary authors working in this field. One aim of the cluster is to establish an interdisciplinary dialogue between language and literature scholars and, indeed, our work also includes literary-linguistic research on the role of eighteenth and nineteenth-century dialect literature in shaping ideas about the North.   

Within the cluster, the key research interests are:

  • Liverpool dialect
  • Yorkshire dialect
  • Creative writing reappraising the North and Northernness
  • The literature of slavery in Romantic-era Liverpool
  • Northern writers and literary representations of the North in the middle ages and from the eighteenth century to the present day
  • Dialect literature

Members of this cluster include:

Cluster Lead: Alex Broadhead

Northern Voices Lecture Series

The Department of English and the School of the Arts hosts a series of public lectures on the subject of Northern Voices. The inaugural lecture will be given by the bestselling author, Emma Jane Unsworth, in March 2020. Please email Alex Broadhead at for information about forthcoming events.

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