My undergraduate degree was a four-year MA in English Language and Literature from Edinburgh University; from there I went to St John’s College, Oxford, and completed a DPhil on William Faulkner’s style. Then for six years I taught at the National University of Singapore, followed by nine years, latterly with tenure, at the University of Washington, Seattle.
I came to the University of Birmingham English department in 1996, attracted by the lively community of English language researchers working here. I have long nurtured a secondary interest in law and the power of language in all kinds of legal proceedings, and this led me to complete the Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies in 2000.
Since 2002 I have been editor of the Journal of Literary Semantics and am currently President of the International Association for Literary Semantics. I am also quite involved in Integrational linguistics.
I teach a variety of courses, including Stylistics, Language and the Law, Narrative Analysis, and Linguistic Theory. I run the MA programme in Literary Linguistics, which each year attracts UK and overseas students who want to study stylistics, narratology, and text analysis. Some of these advance to the PhD, where I chiefly supervise doctoral researchers working in such areas as literary linguistics, text grammar, narrative analysis, literary translation, and corpus stylistics.
I am interested in supervising Masters and PhD research in the areas of:
Corpus linguistic and critical discourse analysis of mass media public discourse, with reference to wealth/income inequality in late modern Britain
Stylistic analysis of poetry (especially 20th/21st century)
Linguistic analysis of literary narratives
Integrational linguistic theory
Sociolinguistic study of teenagers' narratives of identity
Mass media representations of wealth inequality in Britain post-1970 (e.g. newspapers)
How do we come to think we know, in the middle of a story or novel, what will happen next, and finally? And how is that carefully-fashioned unreliable knowledge exploited by writers who make us feel suspense, surprise, and other complex evaluative reactions? To address these questions, I explored those features of narrative texture which seem most central to our perceptions of and expectations regarding narrative progression, in my 2009 book.
For related reasons I am now also studying those features of narrative texts which seem most instrumental in causing readers to feel ‘immersed’ and emotionally moved in the course of reading.
At present (2013) I am completing a book which looks at the foundations of narrative coherence, and examines the roles of situation, repetition, and maximally vague mental picturing in how we make sense of extended fictional narratives.