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Catherine Charlwood

I am a second-year PhD student in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, looking at the relationship between memory and poetry through Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost. My thesis, tentatively entitled 'Models of Memory: Cognition and Culture through the Versification of Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost', is supervised by Dr. Liz Barry. The project is jointly funded by the AHRC and the University of Warwick Chancellor's Scholarships. I am also indebted to the US-UK Fulbright Commission who awarded me an American Studies scholarship for the year 2013-2014.

On these pages you can find out about my research and further links to information about both my conference and teaching involvement.

Current research

My thesis looks at the poetry of Hardy and Frost, which is distinctively concerned with recollection and often remembered by readers. My research will examine the mnemonics of their poetic discourse through cognition and cultural memory. It will explore why such stanzas inherently lend themselves to remembrance, itself a distinctive aspect of poetry. Cognitive psychology and neuroscience will help unpack the importance of form (looking at sound-memory and memory for rhythm), while the cultural context will establish the importance of nationhood in determining the modes of memorial adopted and the reception of their poetry. I ground this approach in the study of nationhood in order to demonstrate how formal systems of verse are, culturally ingrained.

Retrospection is often a primary motivation of verse, passing through Wordsworth to Tennyson and into the twentieth century. Two figures stand out amid this recalling and signal a change: Hardy and Frost. Their subject matter often anchors on memory, loss, the genealogy of both people and objects, inheritance, and memorial landscapes. Furthermore, by using traditional verse forms they actively engage in the process of remembering. These are ‘time-torn’ men on the cusp of two eras (Hardy both Victorian and Modern, Frost spanning Whitman’s yawping to Ginsberg’s howling), who straddle two centuries, positioning themselves alongside this seemingly rapid advancement. Thus, this project uses them as lenses through which to focus a study of memory in poetry at two comparable historical moments.

This project has strong interdisciplinary links with psychology, since it seeks to understand how poetry's properties work on a cognitive level, instead of taking these 'natural' features as a foregone conclusion in terms of memorability. Rhyme, rhythm, metre - all will be considered not just as poetic techniques, but as mnemonic devices. Considering the implications of the cultural and cognitive filters through which verse is mediated should both further the debate over Hardy and Frost’s reception, and help reconsider the ways in which we read and respond to poetry.

Other research interests

As well as my main project, I have interests in memory cultures more generally - the memorial work of inauguration poetry, for example. I am also keenly interested in the work of Primo Levi, particularly in his possible relation to Shakespeare. Representations of pain in literature is also an area of continued study on which I work. Lastly, I have interests in dance, both within literature and as an art form in itself. Dance tragedy is a topic of special focus (from Martha Graham to Sir Kenneth MacMillan).

Other skills

Outside of research, I am a keen dancer/choreographer with a number of projects behind me. Although I work in a number of styles, I am particularly keen to explore the relationship between live music and contemporary dance onstage. Please contact me if you want details of previous work or have ideas for collaboration.

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Catherine Charlwood


C dot J dot Charlwood at warwick dot ac dot uk

Contemporary dancePhoto credit: Duncan Grisby