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Sara Wasson supervises 1 postgraduate research students. If these students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Dr Sara Wasson

Lecturer in Gothic Studies

Sara Wasson

County College

LA1 4YD

Lancaster

Tel: +44 1524 594386

Research overview

I have two research concentrations: the Second World War Gothic of the British home front, and twenty-first century Gothic approached through a medical humanities lens.  Both strands of my research are concerned with ethical witness in response to individual and collective suffering.  My current research projects include a monograph on contemporary Gothic and critical medical humanities; research on literary representations of chronic pain beyond traditional illness narrative prose memoir forms; and a project examining Second World War home front representations of combatants and refugees as spectral figures, liminal and vulnerable, drawing on archives of refugee memoir and spiritualist activity.

PhD supervision

I would be delighted to hear from prospective PhD students interested in working on the Gothic, science fiction, medical humanities, trauma theory, or Second World War literature.

Profile

Second World War Gothic

My first book Urban Gothic of the Second World War (Palgrave, 2010) examines home front literature and internee writing of the Second World War, arguing that the Gothic mode of representation marks moments of fracture in the national mythologies of wartime homes, cities, capital, and fellowship. I put wartime writing in dialogue with theory that examines the processes of nation-formation and modernity, particularly post-imperialist and post-structuralist readings of nation as a narrative construct. I write specifically against the twin tendencies that continue to prevail in representations of the Blitz: the tendency in popular culture to romantically oversimplify the home front as site of sturdy camaraderie, and the trend in literary criticism to approach home-front war experience within a therapeutic paradigm privileging psychological resilience. Instead, I believe it is vital to acknowledge the marginalised primary sources that present the home front nation as a site of trauma and structural exclusion, particularly in the experience of home front refugees.

 The monograph won the International Gothic Association’s Allan Lloyd Smith Award for advancing the field of Gothic Studies.  It was also short-listed for the ESSE Cultural Studies Award category A.

 The monograph has also been widely cited in academic research internationally, and was widely reviewed and praised in journals from a wide range of disciplines, including: Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society; Horror Studies; The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies; The Review of English Studies; The Literary London Journal; Urban Geography, the academic website The Gothic Imagination at Stirling University and the German journal Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik. Edwina Keown in the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies described the book as ‘a must read for anyone interested in twentieth-century Gothic, urban Gothic, and the after-life of the fin-de-siècle Gothic’. Phyllis Lassner in The Review of English Studies writes that the monograph ‘successfully reveals the rich possibilities of using the Gothic mode as a method of analysing wartime fiction and by extension, of twentieth-century cultural production’. Professor Avril Horner of Kingston University wrote, ‘Wasson’s use of unpublished archival material makes reading this book an intensely moving as well as intellectually stimulating experience’. In the international journal Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society, Heather Nunn wrote ‘Wasson’s is a rich text that ends with a powerful plea for a resistance to tidy closure and to political strategy that advocates mourning as a collective response to collective loss and pain’. The book also drew attention in the non-academic press, with Times columnist Richard Morrison drawing on it as an illuminating historical comparison with the London riots: he calls my monograph ‘a fascinating book in which [Wasson] traced the psychological effects of the Blitz, using the observations of 1940s British writers and artists’. The Scotsman described the book as ‘a groundbreaking re-interpretation of the lingering effect of the Blitz’.

 Gothic Studies and Medical Humanities

My second research strand examines late 20th and 21st-century Gothic science fiction and film through a medical humanities lens, specifically considering how this genre fiction represents troubling mutations of biomedical practice under the pressures of late capitalism. These genre texts also offer provocative challenges to existing theorisations of the body and posthumanist discourse. Much of my work examines literary and cinematic representations of organ transplantation, and as always I am motivated in this research by the way that this topic raises urgent ethical issues around collective and individual trauma and the ethics of witness. In a similar vein, I have published work examining literary engagements with contemporary genetics and the experience of ‘pre-vivors’, people ‘diagnosed’ with a risk for developing particular disease: I examine how their experience hinges on a struggle to reclaim a sense of narrative agency from a particular medicalised telos.

 My work in medical Gothic has been cited and reviewed internationally, and in 2015 I was commissioned to be Guest Editor for the international journal Gothic Studies for a special issue identifying potential future conjunctions between Gothic criticism and emerging medical humanities scholarship.

 I also co-edited the collection Gothic Science Fiction 1980-2010 (Liverpool University press, 2011), which examines moments of fracture in narratives of modernity, specifically in discourses of nation, capital and medicine. This collection has also been widely reviewed and praised in international journals, including Science Fiction Studies,Science Fiction Film and Television, the Canadian journal Ariel: A Review of International English Literature hosted at Calgary, and the French journal Belphégor : Littératures populaires et culture médiatique. Writing in Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, for example, Stefania Forlini describes this as a timely collection of eleven essays on works that combine the “disturbing affective lens” and “confined or claustrophobic environment” of the Gothic mode … with the cognitive estrangement of science fiction to explore the troubled boundaries of bodies and nations in the last three decades. … [T]his is an admirable collection of essays that points to a renewed and refreshing critical focus’.

Other roles:

I am a permanent member of the International Gothic Association’s prize-awarding committee selecting forthcoming work. I have collaborated with a local secondary school on a project using Young Adult Gothic fiction, have been invited to speak at a science-fiction fan conference, and have collaborated with colleagues on a museum/art gallery project called Robot Visions, which examined the afterlives of repurposed artefacts, technological obsolescence and its environmental impact. In the media, my work has been invoked in the newspapers the Times, Scotland on Sunday, the Scotsman, and The Journal, and I contributed to a BBC Scotland radio broadcast examining cultural practices around Halloween. I have co-organised two conferences: a graduate student conference on Gothic Science Fiction held at Edinburgh Napier, and a conference on Urban Gothic held in Liverpool.

I am passionate about collaboration, and would be delighted to hear from anyone wishing to collaborate in any of my fields of interest.

 

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