Research excellence at the University of Kent

School of English

The Research Excellence Framework also assesses the impact that the research has outside academia. The case studies below are a selection of the research submitted by the School of English.

Presenting our cultural heritage

Professor Bernhard Klein, Dr Catherine Richardson

Canterbury Cathedral is now able to share its fragile manuscripts with a wider audience, without any fear of damaging the materials. It does so using touchscreen technology that can simulate the physical experience of handling a document. This unusual project is the result of a close collaboration between Catherine Richardson from the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) and Canterbury Cathedral Archives, as well as Kent’s School of Engineering and Digital Arts, Rouen Library, and the University of Rouen. It is one of many MEMS projects that involve a sustained collaboration with outside organisations.

The research network and joint doctoral programme TEEME (Text and Event in Early Modern Europe), set up by Bernhard Klein, places the emphasis on collaborations across national boundaries. Research takes place in partnership with the heritage sector; for instance, the Before Empire project involved the British Library (UK), the Huntington Library (US), and the National Library (India). TEEME has also enabled students to engage with the heritage sector on placements in cities such as Prague, Porto and Berlin.

Canterbury Cathedral

Stories of migration

Professor Abdulrazak Gurnah

Abdulrazak Gurnah’s most recent novel, The Last Gift draws on his research into migration. With a focus on how different generations experience displacement, the novel exposes the corrosive power of untold stories, including family secrets. Gurnah’s previous work narrates the trajectory of British imperialism. His novel Paradise (1994) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and challenged assumptions about empire, colonialism, migration and diaspora. The novel is now a core text on university courses around the world – helping students at all levels, as well the general reading public, to gain insight into a complex subject. His work for radio includes contributing a programme for the acclaimed BBC Radio 4 series, A History of the World in 100 Objects, and writing for BBC Radio 3’s The Essay.

Radical Distrust

Professor Caroline Rooney, Dr Nazeen Ahmed

Through a study of literary texts and performance culture, the Radical Distrust programme, led by Caroline Rooney, has provided inspiration in tackling socio-political fractures in the Middle East. Many of the project’s music and drama performances have reached global audiences. For instance, the hip-hop play The Rebel Cell, by Dizraeli and Baba Brinkman, was staged at one of Cairo’s main theatres, and the event was reported on Nile TV with its audience of 350 million.

Rooney’s argument for security policies that are based on trust and cultural awareness has informed political and public debate. Her work has been presented to an All-Party Parliamentary Group on national security, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. It has also helped to shape and document cultural activism in the Middle East, and contributed to projects related to human rights.

The Evliya Celebi Way

The Evliya Çelebi Way

Professor Donna Landry

Donna Landry’s research led her on a journey that followed in the hoof-prints of the 17th-century Ottoman writer and traveller, Evliya Çelebi. As part of Landry’s investigation of Turkey’s equestrian traditions, she and other members of the project re-traced a section of Çelebi’s 1671 journey to Mecca on horseback.

The project inspired the creation of a new UNESCO Cultural Route called the Evliya Çelebi Way. As a walking, cycling and riding route, it helps to encourage sustainable tourism in Turkey and enhances the public’s understanding of the region’s Ottoman heritage.

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Last Updated: 11/02/2015

Banner photo (c) Simon Tollington, DICE