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Funded PhD @ Exeter: Ronald Duncan Literary Foundation Studentship

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Ronald Duncan Literary Foundation Studentship Ref: 1873

About the award

The West country has a rich tradition of writing that forges literary identities out of experiences or memories of specific places, from Wordsworth and Coleridge walking the Quantocks to Hardy’s nostalgia for Wessex. Many of these writers took an active interest in farming and husbandry (Henry Williamson, Ted Hughes), as well as in the local legends and songs of the area (Sabine Baring-Gould), and the stories of local communities (Eden Phillpotts). And these writers often collaborated or developed literary networks that provided a focus as well as a viable cultural alternative to metropolitan groups, such as the Bloomsbury set. Our proposal, therefore, is to examine literary and creative networks in the south-west: their heritage, connections with the land and environment, and their attachment to particular sites of writing, art, and/or music. The Ronald Duncan archive will provide a fascinating and rich set of resources for this PhD through an examination of Duncan’s engagement with the south-west landscape, his interest in agriculture and husbandry and works such as Where I Live, Devon and Cornwall and Journal of a Husbandman, as well as his creation of the Devon festival in the 1950s. The PhD would also explore Duncan’s tangled position within a number of local and metropolitan literary networks, placing his life and career within a broader history of literary networks and regional literary culture.

For this project, the resources of the Ronald Duncan archive will be supplemented by other collections from south-west writers held by The University of Exeter Special Collections. It has, for example, archives of Williamson, Hughes, the library of Baring-Gould, and other local writers, and the region has a rich history of writers visiting and writing about the area (George Eliot, George Henry Lewes, Charles Kingsley, Philip Gosse, George Tugwell, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, and many others) that would afford a unique opportunity to research the imaginative place of literature in the West country.

Primary Supervisor: Professor Nick Groom

Professor Groom’s work investigates questions of authenticity and the emergence of national and regional identities. This interest began in his first book, a study of the formation of the English ballad tradition (The Making of Percy’s Reliques, Clarendon Press, 1999). In recent years, his work has become more interdisciplinary. His cultural history of The Union Jack(Atlantic, 2006; paperbacked 2007), examined expressions of British identities. Most recently, his study on the history of representations of the English environment was published in November 2013 as The Seasons: An Elegy for the Passing of the Year (Atlantic). It was shortlisted for the Katharine Briggs Folklore Prize and runner-up for the Countryfile Book of the Year. In the meantime his acclaimed book The Gothic: A Very Short Introduction was published by OUP in 2012 as a part of a long-term project rethinking the Gothic past in political and historicist terms. Professor Groom also has a strong interest in literature and place, as well as south-west writing.   He is co-director of ECLIPSE (Exeter Centre for Literatures of Identity, Place, and Sustainability).


Application deadline: 29th June 2015
Number of awards: 1
Value: £14,057 plus UK/EU tuition fees for eligible students
Duration of award: per year
Contact: Dr Matt Barber

How to apply

Entry criteria

We invite applications from candidates with a strong academic background in English Literary Studies, and a clear and engaging research proposal which can be developed through available research supervision. Successful applicants normally have a good first degree (at least 2.1, or international equivalent) in a relevant field of humanities, and have obtained, or are currently working towards a Masters degree at Merit level, or international equivalent, in modern and contemporary literature. If English is not your native language, you will also need to satisfy the English language entry requirements of the University of Exeter.

To apply

Applicants should complete an online web form and upload a one page CV, a research proposal of no more than 1,000 words, outlining the particular area or approach to this subject that they would like to undertake, transcripts, and two academic references and, if relevant, proof of English language proficiency, by 29 June 2015.

Applicants should ensure that the referees email their references in the form of a letter to the Postgraduate Administrator at by 29 June 2015. The responsibility for ensuring that references are received by the deadline rests with the candidates. Referees must email their references to us from their institutional email accounts (references sent from personal/private email accounts will not be accepted unless in the form of a scanned document on institutional headed paper and signed by the referee).

All application documents must be submitted in English. Certified translated copies of academic qualifications must also be provided.

More information

If you have any queries or would like to discuss this opportunity before applying, please contact Professor Nick Groom at

If you have any queries regarding the application process please contact:

Postgraduate Administrator at:
College of Humanities Graduate School, University of Exeter
Queen’s Building, The Queen’s Drive
Exeter, Devon, EX4 4QH

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