Researcher in Focus: Dr Sophie Oliver

Posted on: 15 September 2020 by Nick Jones in 2018 Posts

Sophie Oliver
Dr Sophie Oliver

This month's Researcher in Focus is Dr Sophie Oliver, Lecturer in Modernism at the Department of English. Find out more about here work specialising in modernist and postwar writing by women and her recently awarded AHRC New Generation Thinkers award.

Sophie joined the English department in January 2019, after finishing a PhD at Royal Holloway in 2017 and many years working in art publishing. She specialises in modernist and postwar writing by women, and her research is particularly interested in how that writing relates to visual cultures, especially fashion.

She has published articles on authors such as Djuna Barnes and Jean Rhys, and has pieces forthcoming on a dress that belonged to Rhys and now belongs to her, and on the poet Mina Loy’s place in a fashion magazine called Charm. In all her work, Sophie uses fashion as a method – as a way to think, read and critique. Her first book, currently in process, proposes fashion as a tool for feminist literary history.

Sophie is also working on some public engagement projects that connect clothes with literature. For example, her exhibition ‘Poets in Vogue’, curated with Sarah Parker (Loughborough) and Gesa Werner (V&A) and partly funded by the School of Arts, will open at the Poetry Library in London in 2021.Work by women poets from Edith Sitwell to Anne Sexton and Gwendolyn Brooks will be shown alongside dynamic interpretations of clothes they wore or wrote about. The idea is to tell different, imaginative stories about the importance of image, appearance and style to these figures and their poetry.

Earlier this year, Sophie was named a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker. As part of the scheme she will make radio based on her research on literature and fashion (look out for an episode of The Essay about that Jean Rhys dress). You can hear her here on Radio 3’s Free Thinking discussing her interest in a neglected writer called Bessie Breuer, who supported Ingrid Bergman when she scandalised America by leaving Hollywood for Italy, Roberto Rossellini and neo-realist cinema.

Learn more about Sophie and her work on her staff page.

Follow Sophie on Twitter.

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