The Culture and Community research cluster brings together research from the early modern period to the contemporary, focusing upon discourses of community formation and deformation. Cluster members explore the representation of community formation in literary texts, examining: political allegiance; national and personal identity; religious affiliation; gendered communities; friendship; translating across cultures; communal behaviours such as eating, storytelling, and watching and participating in artistic performances. The research strands examine intentional voluntary communities and the texts, practices, and ideologies with which they are associated, as well as regarding indirect community formation via the development of popular culture and its dissemination in print. Cluster members interrogate the role of law, governance and empire and their creation of, and influence upon, communities in the past. In these research strands, the inverse community deformation is examined in relation to political, gendered, class and ethnic division in Europe, in the Americas and across the post-colonial English-speaking world. These topics are considered from a historical point of view, with a contemporary perspective, interrogating heritage, the past and illuminating its effects on the present. They explore the tensions and relations between regional and national identities, and the role of memory in the formation of notions of community and culture. Most recently projects have focused upon Brexit and also minority populations in Northern and Central European countries.

Cluster members are actively involved in organising conferences and disseminating their work nationally and internationally. Recently, cluster members have been keynote and invited speakers to conferences in Switzerland, India, Spain, Poland, Netherlands, Germany and Finland. Members are active in national and international organisations such as European Society for Studies in English, Victorian Popular Fiction Association, British Association of Canadian Studies, British Milton Seminar, Multi-ethnic Literatures of Europe and the Americas, and British Association of Modernist Studies.

Cluster members regularly organise conferences and symposia at the University of Portsmouth on topics such as ‘Europe in Britain/Britain in Europe’; ‘International Suffrage’; ‘Trauma and Memory: Holocaust in Contemporary Culture’; ‘Cultures of Commemoration’; ‘Shakespearean Communities’; ‘Cookery Books’. Previous symposia have also provided the basis for extended projects and edited special journal issues such as ‘Amity in Early Modern Literature and Culture’ for Literature & History, ‘Communities and Companionship in Early Modern Literature and Culture’ for Early Modern Literary Studies and ‘Imaginary Europes’ for the Journal of Postcolonial Writing.

Cluster members are active researchers in the wider community of Portsmouth and its region. Key public events include ‘Much Ado About Portsmouth: a Shakespeare Festival’ and Portsmouth contributions to the British Academy ‘Being Human’ festivals. Several projects within the cluster work in collaboration with Portsmouth City Council, local schools, Dickens Birthplace Museum and Wymering Manor Trust. The cluster thereby creates a sense of local (his)stories of the past and present, exemplified by the project ‘Hidden Heritage of  a Naval Town: Women’s Community Activism in Portsmouth since 1960’.

The cluster also supports a thriving postgraduate community. Current and recent Masters by Research (MRes) students work on Englishness, anger in C18th slave narratives, the Holocaust, staging suicide in Early Modern England, contemporary developments in African American women’s writing, and contemporary dystopias. PhD research within the cluster includes satire, J M Coetzee, Sherlock Holmes, Hollywood adaptations of C19th novels, and ‘fandom’. Phd students have also been active in running conferences on themes such as ‘Post Truth’.