Novel Research

Research and teaching in the area of Novel Studies constitute a core strength of the Department of English. We currently have approximately 50 Higher Degree Research students working on novel topics. This page outlines current staff research projects in the area of Novel Studies and lists potential supervisors in the field.

Boy reading book

Reclining reading

Mark Byron’s research includes an interest in the various challenges to the novel form in Modernism, ranging across experiments in genre, narratology, theories of the novel, and the materiality of the text as an object of bibliography, publishing and marketing. His current research also concerns the material genesis of the novel as a textual process, from notes, glosses and annotations and manuscript drafts, to published texts, versions, and various kinds of scholarly editions. He is completing the Watt module of the Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, in which the manuscript notebooks and partial typescript of Beckett’s wartime novel will be published in an online interactive edition, with an accompanying monograph. Mark has also written on, or is currently conducting research on such authors as George Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, Djuna Barnes, James Joyce, Stefan Zweig, Saul Bellow, Thomas Bernhard and J. M. Coetzee.

Robert Dixon's current research project, Scenes of Reading: Australian Literature and the World Republic of Letters, is supported by an ARC DORA grant. It seeks to ask how Australian literature - both as a field of cultural production and as an academic discipline with a cultural-nationalist legacy - can best be located in relation to world literary space. At the same time, it seeks to provincialise such overarching concepts as world literature. The project will include a theoretical and historical introduction, supported by a series of case studies of representative Australian novelists and novels, from Henry Handel Richardson through Patrick White to Gail Jones.

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John Frow's most recent book Character and Person includes extended discussions of Defoe, Richardson, Sterne, Dickens, Goethe, Nabokov and Saramago, and deals both implicitly and explicitly with one of the novel's central categories. His book Genre also has implications for novel theory. He has a continuing interest in narrative theory: his current ARC Discovery Project, "Regimes of Reading", will deal with particular cases of interpretive conflict that will include the novel.

Paul Giles has written on many aspects of English, American and Australian fiction, from the 18th century to the present day. Among the authors on whom he has published are M. Amis, Austen, Ballard, Barthelme (D. and F), Carter, Coupland, DeLillo, Dickens, Donleavy, Dreiser, Eggers, Farrell, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Gibson, Gissing, Hawthorne, Higgins, Howells, Huxley, Isherwood, James, Joyce, Kerouac, Lawrence, Le Guin, Lennox, Markoe, McCarthy, Melville, Morrison, Nabokov, O’Connor (E and F), O’Hara, Percy, C. Phillips, JF Powers, Pynchon, Richardson, Roth, Rowson, Rushdie, M. Shelley, Stein, Sterne, Trollope, Updike, Wallace, Wodehouse. My forthcoming book, Antipodean America, also considers CB Brown, JF Cooper, H. Kingsley, Twain, London, M. Franklin, Stead, Chandler, Keneally, Hazzard, Carey and Coetzee.

Sarah Gleeson-White's research focuses on American regionalist cultures from, roughly, the 1880s through the 1940s. To date, she has written on William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Cormac McCarthy and other Southern US writers, always with an interest in the ways in which their fiction might have been inflected by industrial culture – its forms and institutions. Her new project, “The Mechanics of Regionalism,” more comprehensively investigates regionalism's interactions with modernity by examining the novels of a diverse group of American regionalists (e.g. Hamlin Garland, Oscar Micheaux, Willa Cather, Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, Sinclair Lewis) alongside their really quite significant but frequently overlooked contributions to cinema, radio, mass publishing and so forth.

Asian reader

Melissa Hardie is working on a project called "novel objects" that addresses the Anglophone novel mid-century. The project considers publication, translation, distribution, remediation, citation, collection, pricing, as forms of circulation. It analyses the ways in which the novel form came to be embodied or remediated in a variety of other contexts: television and film, but also through habits of collection and reading. Its aim is to propose an alternative history of the relationship between popular/bestselling novels and literary experimentalism, as well as between the novel and its variations: novelisations, non-fiction novels, and other minority forms. The telemovie is a "novel object" of particular interest. She has recently published on Djuna Barnes' novel Nightwood, on true crime (legacy genre of the non-fiction novel), on middlebrow culture and Mad Men, is currently working on Jacqueline Susann and the airport novel.

Peter Marks teaches and researches on twentieth and twenty-first century literature, particularly–but not exclusively–on British Literature. His interest in the novel includes the study of film adaptations; the political novel (broadly defined); surveillance, utopia and dystopian fiction; modernist fiction, and questions surrounding realism as a mode. He has supervised PhDs on the work of Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford; Iain Sinclair, and Ian McEwan, and currently is supervising PhDs on narrative theory and self-reflexive fiction, and on the work of Philip K. Dick and Aldous Huxley.

Nicola Parsons' research focuses on the early eighteenth century novel. She is currently finishing up an ARC funded project that uses the twinned careers of Eliza Haywood and Daniel Defoe as a means of re-thinking the connections between gender and genre in the formative decades of the novel. As part of this work, she has begun to think about the role romance plays in the early novel. This has led to the development of a new project, entitled Revisiting Romance: Form and Matter in Early Eighteenth Century Women’s Writing that considers the persistence of romance in early eighteenth century novels by women. She is particularly interested in examining novels that are often considered conservative – and juxtaposed to the scandalous example of amatory fiction – and thinking about the strategic ways they engage pastoral romance, specifically the Sidneian tradition. In addition to allowing her an opportunity to think through questions she has been preoccupied with for some time, this project also provides her with an excuse to return to figures who have long fascinated her, such as Elizabeth Rowe and John Dunton.

Brigid Rooney's project "The novel and the suburb in Australia: 1901 to the present" investigates a productive nexus between fictional and real suburbia in Australian novels over the past century. She is researching novels by Christina Stead, Eleanor Dark, Patrick White, Elizabeth Harrower, George Johnston, David Malouf, Melissa Lucashenko and Steven Carroll, among others. Her questions concern how fictional works are sourced in and evoke specific times and places (i.e. suburbs and suburban communities), and how they form a longitudinal fictional archive of lost places. Most of all she's interested in how novels transform and reinvent source material through fictional autobiography, non-linear or modernist temporalities or other experimental forms of narration.

Girl reading to dog

Vanessa Smith's current research project, "Child's Play: object relations from Defoe to Winnicott", links novel writing with British object relations theory via representations of juvenile writing and reading. It considers novelists from the eighteenth through twentieth centuries, including Defoe, the Brontes, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen. She has previously published on Defoe's, Melville's and Stevenson's novels, on the novel in English in Oceania to 1950, and on books (from religious tracts to pulp fiction) as objects of exchange in scenarios of intercultural contact.

Matthew Sussman's current research focuses on the aesthetics of prose fiction as understood through the history of style and rhetoric. His book manuscript, Stylistic Virtue in Victorian Fiction, unearths how Aristotelian virtue ethics profoundly influenced nineteenth-century ideas of aesthetic appreciation and response, leading its major novelists to imagine their work in terms of ethico-aesthetic categories such as the easy, the lucid, and the sincere. In addition to his central interest in the Victorian novel, he has two current projects: on moral and artistic stupidity in the late work of Henry James, and on the tension between criticism and creativity in Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

In addition, Bruce Gardiner, Rebecca Johinke and David Kelly supervise topics in the Novel, although their primary research interests are in the areas of critical theory and alternative media.