Alison Waller
20042021

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Personal profile

Biography

I am Programme Convener for the BA English Literature and BA Creative and Professional Writing, and the Knowledge-Exchange Lead for the Centre for Literature and Inclusion.

I have interests in:

  • Young adult fiction
  • Age studies
  • Reading and wellbeing
  • Memory and literature
  • Rereading

I welcome enquires from potential PhD students and collaborators about any of these areas.

Research interests

My research in young adult literature and adolescence asks:

  • how do ideas of ordinariness and extraordinariness shape our understanding of adolescence?
  • what can national histories of YA literature tell us about our narratives of youth, society, and the future?
  • what benefits can reading YA have for mental wellbeing?

I am currently writing a new study of 20th-century British young adult literature, and have published an article on The Art of Being Ordinary: Cups of Tea and Catching the Bus in Contemporary British YA. I was Principal Investigator for the British Academy-funded 'Reading for Normal: Young People and YA Fiction in the Time of Covid-19' project. I am the author of Constructing Adolescence in Fantastic Realism (Routledge 2009) and General Editor of The International Journal of Young Adult Literature.

My research in age studies, memory, reading and wellbeing asks:

  • how do adults negotiate relationships with books from their pasts?
  • where do discourses of old age and youth intersect and how can this aid intergenerational understanding?
  • what part can forgetting play in being human at any age?
  • how can reading help us cope with threats of loneliness or anxiety?

My latest monograph, Rereading Childhood Books: a Poetics (Bloomsbury 2019), explores the practice of remembering and rereading childhood fiction and was shortlisted for the ESSE Book Prize. My peer-reviewed articles in this area include an account of a co-creative narrative enquiry involving older adults living with dementia and childhood books; a study of men’s memories of the children’s classic, The Secret Garden, and an analysis of symbolic scenes of amnesia in young adult novels.

I enjoy interdisciplinary and international collaboration and developing partnerships:

  • I have developed the Reading4Normal Book Club, a funded national programme based on my research with young adult readers.
  • I am working with Cheltenham Literary Festival's 'Teachers Reading, Pupils Reading' programme to deliver workshops and training to secondary educators.
  • My ‘Lifelong Reading: New Stories’ project allowed me to collaborate with individuals living with dementia, creative practitioners, and a specialist day centre.
  • I co-run the 'Ageing Adventurers' reading group.
  • I am leading an international team on a new companion to young adult literature.
  • I was co-organiser for the AHRC-funded ‘The Memory Network’, which brought together scholars working in arts and humanities and science.

 

Teaching

I teach across undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, including the MA Children's Literature by distance learning, which I convened for eight years. Modules I have designed and delivered include:

  • ‘Memory and Being’ (UG)
  • ‘British Young Adult Fiction’ (UG)
  • ‘Critical and Theoretical Perspectives in Children’s Literature’ (MA)
  • ‘Research Methods’ and ‘Dissertation’ (MA)

I have supervised five PhD projects to completion, on the following topics: Children's Neo-Romanticism, Lesbian Love Stories in YA Literature, Shifting Boundaries between Childhood and Adulthood, Textual Afterlives of Childhood Reading for LGBTQ Adults, and Representations of Motherhood in Popularist Children's LIterature. I won the Student-Led Teaching Award for 'Best Research Supervisor'.

My current PhD students are:

  • Emily Corbett: '“There’s more than one story to be told about transgender teenagers”: Transitions in the Twenty-First-Century Young Adult Book Market'
  • Odhran O'Donoghue: 'The "Gay Future Child": an analysis of homonormativity and assimilation in contemporary American LGBT+ young adult fiction'

"Alison is incredibly knowledgeable. She has an excellent manner (she is always calm and gentle), while offering firm and perceptive guidance."

Professional affiliations

Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy

Advisory Board member, YA Studies Association.

Editorial Board Member: European Journal of English Studies; Children’s Literature in Education journal; Angilca Wratislaviensia journal; ‘Studies in European Literature for Children and Young Adults’ book series

 

Qualifications

PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

PGCert: Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Roehampton/HEA.

BA (Hons), University of Birmingham.

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