Group of women protesting dressed as characters from The Handmaids Tale

Culture, community and heritage research

Explore the work we're doing in culture, community and heritage, one of our areas of expertise in English Literature

Our culture, community and heritage research examines how communities are formed – and sometimes disintegrated – through the sharing of writing, reading, performance and the literary dissemination of ideas.

Communities are central to the functioning of society but textual communities – created by the sharing and dissemination of text, the influence texts exert and the association with certain events and artefacts of cultural production – are often overlooked.

Our research reveals the influence of literary discourse in the creation and deformation of political, national and local communities, and the impact that has on wider society. We look at prominent events in European history – such as the Enlightenment, the Holocaust, colonialism and decolonisation, global migration and Brexit.

We consider popular fiction, literary discourse and ideological writing, looking at the incidental and intentional creation of communities. Our research covers literature from the Early Modern period, Victorian popular fiction, the witnessing of global migration, to twentieth and twenty-first century questions of nation and identity.

Through our work, we're developing strategies of cultural and historic tourism, including work with Dicken's Birthplace Museum, the D-Day Story, Wymering Manor Trust, and Dimbola Lodge. We're also raising awareness of the contribution of minority communities, geography and its impact in Portsmouth.

The creation of intentional and incidental communities of people in regard to Brexit and English national identity has made our work especially relevant in recent times.

Our research covers the following key topics

  • Representations of community formation and deconstruction in literary texts from the early modern period to the present
  • National and personal identity
  • Literary dissemination of political ideas
  • Gendered communities
  • Religious identity
  • Friendship
  • Scientific communities
  • Imaginary/utopian communities
  • The interaction between textual and material communities
  • Communal behaviours such as eating, storytelling, and watching and participating in artistic performances

We use qualitative methods in our research: namely, the critical analysis of text.


Recent research projects has seen us work in collaboration with:

  • Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, Portsmouth
  • The D-Day Story, Portsmouth
  • Wymering Manor Trust
  • Dimbola Lodge

Project highlights

  • Britain in Europe/Europe in Britain

    This project explores British and European Identity – the perception of Britain within Europe, and of European ‘Others’ within Britain – and investigates the representation of British and European Identities in Literature and Culture, both in the past and in the post-Brexit present.

  • This project explores the 1834 story of a group of 212 Polish soldiers who, en route by boat to America, were washed ashore in Portsmouth – the soldiers decided to remain in the city, and in doing so, became the first major community of Polish ex-patriots to make Britain their home.

  • Cultures of Commemoration

    This project interrogates how contemporary culture ‘remembers’ the past, and considers the place occupied by contemporary literature and culture in a variety of commemorative processes, including those of past military conflicts.

  • Victorian Literary Heritage

    This project focused on local and regional figures of cultural significance such as Dickens, Tennyson and Arthur Conan Doyle and raised public awareness of Portsmouth as a literary city and the Isle of Wight's importance as a centre for Victorian writers and artists.

Discover our areas of expertise

Culture, community and heritage is one of 4 areas of expertise in our English Literature research area. Explore the others below.

Research groups

We're researching the history and culture of the English speaking world through literature.
We're researching the discourses of community formation and deformation through their representations in literary texts.

Interested in a PhD in English Literature?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Literary Studies postgraduate research degrees page.


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