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Krazy comics - modernist masterpiece?

by YPU Admin on February 15, 2019, Comments. Tags: American Studies, comics, English, Humanities, and modernism


Hey, I’m Stevie, a first year PhD student in English and American Studies at the University of Manchester, and I study comics! More specifically, I study George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (1913-1944), an American comic strip that loosely follows the daily lives of Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse (with whom Krazy is in love) and Offissa Pupp (who is in love with Krazy!) as they unfold against the fantastical desertscape of ‘Coconino County’. Krazy wasn’t very popular among most readers, but it drew praise from artists, writers, and intellectuals, including the poet e. e. cummings, the critic Gilbert Seldes, and, purportedly, Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, among others! As a result, a number of scholars have linked Krazy to the field of modernism, an early twentieth century art movement that sought to respond to the rapidly-changing modern world. My work focuses on deeply contextualising the strip’s production, content, distribution, and reception to ask where, in the vast field of American modernist production and culture, it is most usefully historicised.

In Depth…

Deciding what to study at university was tricky because I was torn between English literature, sociology, and creative writing. Ultimately, I chose the BA American Literature with Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, which gave me quite a lot of freedom with choosing modules and meant I could combine interdisciplinary American Studies classes with writing workshops. It also gave me the opportunity to spend a year at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where I encountered my first Krazy strip through a brilliant class on comics and graphic literature. In final year, I wrote my dissertation on Krazy and took a fantastic body culture studies module - both left me knowing I wanted to study further, but I spent a few years working to save money and to decide exactly what course I wanted to do – more American studies, something more focused, something to do with my work in education? In September 2017, I joined the MA Gender, Sexuality and Culture at the University of Manchester, a course that indulged my interest in gender and body studies from a philosophical/conceptual perspective, but also let me choose a range of modules from postcolonial literature to transnational radical subcultures. Knowing I wasn’t through with Krazy Kat, I also took a class on modernist studies to help me prepare a PhD proposal, and used my MA dissertation on frontier manhood in ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’ to hone skills and touch on areas of knowledge that I’ll use going forwards: using digital archives and special collections, and learning more about transatlantic entertainment and the cultural meanings of the American West. For me, the most enjoyable thing about the PhD is having the time and freedom to follow my curiosity, which has taken me through digital archives of 1920s Vanity Fair magazines, over 100-year-old maps of Arizona, and into poetry, short stories, art, and comics I’ve never encountered before. There is a huge amount of fascinating work going on in both comics studies and modernist studies that is seeking to draw attention to the myriad things we can learn about history through popular culture; I hope that my work can play a small part in bringing these exciting fields into conversation with one another. In the meantime, what an honour to read and write about Krazy for work!

Going Further…

In Print

Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics is an educational and entertaining introduction to the history and grammar of comics...written as a comic!

If you want to know more about George Herriman, Krazy Kat, or the American newspaper comic industry in the early c20, check out Michael Tisserand’s brilliant biography Krazy: A Life in Black and White.


Comics Grid and ImageTexT are online, open-access journals of comics studies.

The Modernist Review is the British Association for Modernist Studies’ (BAMS, for short!) postgraduate blog, featuring wide-ranging articles written in an accessible way.

The John Rylands Library has a Special Collections blog where you can read more about the research the collections are being used for. I’ve linked below to the main blog, and to a post I wrote about using their ‘Buffalo Bill Scrapbook’ for my MA dissertation.


Artificial wombs: an ethical exploration

by YPU Admin on February 1, 2019, Comments. Tags: healthcare, Humanities, and Law

My name is Chloe and I’m a second year PhD student, funded by the Wellcome Trust, in Bioethics and Medical Law at the University of Manchester. I finished my A Levels in Physics, Biology and Chemistry in 2011, but having decided science wasn’t for me I took a gap year to think about what I wanted to do next. During my time off I decided to go in a completely different direction and applied to the University of Manchester to study Law. I started my degree in 2012 and I loved it! I was still interested in some of the ethical issues surrounding science and so during my degree I took modules in Medical Law and Mental Health Law and I wrote my dissertation about Caesarean Sections.

After my undergraduate degree I received a scholarship from Manchester to take my Masters in Healthcare Law and Ethics in 2015. In 2017 I started my PhD also in the School of Law at Manchester. My PhD is about artificial wombs and the impact of this technology on the law and ethics of reproduction and pregnancy.


Artificial womb technology is currently being developed as a replacement for conventional neonatal intensive care. Current methods of intensive care for premature babies cannot aid babies born before 22 weeks because their lungs are not developed enough for assisted ventilation. Intensive care also cannot always prevent premature neonates from developing life-threatening infections during treatment or serious long-term health problems as a result of being born premature. Artificial wombs might be the future solution to mortality and morbidity amongst premature babies. Artificial wombs are designed to mimic the conditions of the womb and effectively  ‘take over’ the process of gestation. An artificial womb treats a premature baby as if it had never been born. Artificial wombs should ‘sidestep’ the common complications caused by, or not prevented by, conventional methods of care. In 2017 there was a successful animal trial of an experimental artificial womb-like device; the ‘biobag.’ The scientists that invented this device have suggested they are only years away from considering human trials of the biobag.

My PhD is by publication, which means that rather than writing a traditional thesis I am writing and publishing a series of articles on my subject that I’ll put together into a thesis at the end. In reproduction science and medicine there are often rapid advances in technology and the law struggles to keep up. Academic research plays a really important role in highlighting the insufficiencies of the law at addressing ethical issues with these new technologies. Writing for publication gives me so much flexibility, and publishing helps me get stuck into, and generate, academic debate right now and help ensure my research has impact. I’m very lucky!

Most days, I spend my time reading and writing in our postgrad research office. I try to write a little something every day so I don’t get out of the habit. I’m also a teaching assistant in the school of law: so one day a week I spend teaching first year students criminal and contract law. I’m hoping to stay in academic when I’ve finished my PhD because I really enjoy both teaching and research.


If you are interested in my research you can read this blog post about some of my work on the Journal of Medical Ethics Blog:

You can also read my first research paper (it’s free because it is open access) here:

For a brief summary of the science behind artificial wombs:

You can also follow my research on my Twitter:

For more information about Bioethics, Health and the Law at Manchester:


Performance and Politics - How can they work together?

by YPU Admin on April 12, 2018, Comments. Tags: Humanities, PhD, and Reasearch


My name is Asif Majid, and I’m a second-year PhD student in Anthropology, Media, and Performance. Broadly speaking, my work sits at the intersection of theatre and the lived experiences of marginalized communities. I research, teach, perform, and make work at this intersection in a variety of contexts and capacities.

(Storytelling | photo: the stoop)

My PhD research focuses on the ways in which applied theatre offers insights into the lives of British Muslim youth in Manchester. Through a series of workshops, performances, and interviews, I am facilitating a theatre-making process that addresses the sociopolitical narratives that British Muslim youth face. The process spans the current academic year (2017/18), after which point I will draw out common themes from the workshops, performances, and interviews in the writing of my thesis.

 In Depth

Both my academic trajectory and my current research straddle the worlds of performance and politics, bridging theory/practice and a wide variety of disciplines. Originally from the US, I earned my BA in Interdisciplinary Studies (Global Peace Building and Conflict Management) at UMBC in 2013. In 2015, I completed a MA in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University. During both degrees, I focused on the ways in which the performing arts are used in conflict situations and social justice endeavors. Over time, my focus shifted from the broader arts to theatre in particular. This led me to pursue a PhD under the supervision of Prof. James Thompson at Manchester, who is one of the world’s leading experts on applied theatre. My program combines his expertise in Drama with the resources of the Social Anthropology department, such that I have a supervisor from each.

At the same time, I have been an active performer across a number of arts (music, theatre, etc.). This dovetailed with my research inquiries and has allowed me to use my knowledge of theatre and the wider arts to engage with British Muslim youth who are participating in my PhD project. I borrow heavily from a particular type of theatre known as “theatre of the oppressed,” which was developed by Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal. I also leverage a process known as “devising,” which involves making theatre by starting with an idea rather than a fixed script or text. In my case, the idea is the lived experiences of the project’s participants and how they want to represent those to a wider public. My task, essentially, is to facilitate a translation of their lived experiences into art.

My work is part of a broader conversation in the UK’s (and the West’s) cultural sector, which is increasingly thinking about how minority groups are represented in theatre, music, and dance. In the UK, discourses tend to represent British Muslims in largely negative ways: as foreigners, terrorists, or zealots. This project (and my wider work) seeks to push back against these characterizations by putting British Muslim youth at the center of the conversation about them, rather than on its fringes. At the same time, it challenges the public conversation about Britishness, which is continually looking for scapegoats and ways to equate Britishness with Englishness and whiteness, despite the country’s beautiful multiculturalism.

(as mowgli in The Jungle Book | photo: Brian Roberts)

Going Further

Playwright Omar el-Khairy and director Nadia Latif on British Muslims and theatre (


An important book about Britain’s current struggles with race and multiculturalism (


On changing the narrative around British Muslims (


A valuable book that critiques the ways that Muslimness is policed and securitized in the UK & US ( 


About theatre of the oppressed (


On devising theatre (


Drama at the University of Manchester (


Anthropology at the University of Manchester (




The road to a post-apocalyptic degree!

by YPU ADmin on February 15, 2018, Comments. Tags: American Literature, English, Humanities, and PhD


My name’s Christina and I’m studying for a PhD in English and American literature at the University of Manchester. Although I’m an English student, I didn’t arrive here through studying the subject as an undergraduate. Whilst studying for A-Levels, I signed up for a creative writing course at a Leeds FE college – which only confirmed I had no talent for creative writing. I’m still very glad I took the class because I met another student who spoke about the Cultural Studies degree she was enrolled on at Leeds University.

Cultural Studies taught me the importance of analysing popular culture and that television, popular music and cinema, as well as literature, are valid subjects for sustained academic enquiry. It was at university that I first began to enjoy academic work. I went on to complete an MA in Cultural and Critical Theory in the same department. By 2015, my research interests took me to contemporary American literature and I began a PhD on the post-apocalypse (or ‘the end of the world’ through war and other horrors) in contemporary American fiction. Fiction about ‘end-times’ interests me because it confirms our worst nightmares. Representations of post-apocalyptic survival tell us about our hopes for the future – an idea which is particularly important following contemporary upheavals in American politics and the beginning of the ‘Trump era’.


In my thesis, currently titled, ‘The Post-Apocalypse in Contemporary North American after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis’, I look at how the post-apocalypse – as an imagined world existing after a destructive catastrophe or event – has become a popular literary landscape for mainstream American authors. The post-apocalypse categorises a growing number of novels, including Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), Colson Whitehead’s Zone One (2011) and Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven (2014). I argue that, through this post-apocalyptic trend which includes zombie films like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) as well as literary novels, authors are grappling with changing ideas of ‘risk’ and ‘danger’, especially after the twenty-first-century events like September 11th 2001 and the financial crisis. Contemporary scholars are speculating on how these events, and similar crises, are changing our perceptions of ‘risk’ and danger after the millennium. Companies and governments are allocating and spending increased budgets on security. Defence is increasingly about the web and cyber-security as it is about national defence and borders. The prospect of terror attacks permeates the modern life of British and American cities. A famous sociologist called Ulrich Beck argues that risk is becoming an increasingly prominent feature of everyday life – so much so that, in the twenty-first-century, he claims that we are living in a ‘risk society’, where risk is near-permanent feature of most of public, whether at school or at work, and private life.

My thesis argues that the post-apocalyptic trend in contemporary fiction represents a literary and cultural effort to envisage a future whether the continual prospect of risk has been suddenly – and without warning – cut off by disaster. Uniquely, in the twenty-first-century, the post-apocalypse becomes a disaster-filled and yet still risk-free landscape. According to scholars like Beck, risk is a threat which is managed by our complex democracies, technology and media. After the apocalypse, these institutions have been removed or obliterated. Survivors which are the focus of novels like The Road are reduced to scavenging, and yet they live in a world in which the almost mundane sense of constant risk is replaced by immediate danger. I argue that these post-apocalyptic novels are crucial for interrogating public perceptions of risk in the twenty-first-century, and unease with the risk-management culture which has followed 9/11. The contemporary post-apocalyptic genre, therefore, is more than an outlet for releasing the effects of global climate change and other contemporary fears. The post-apocalypse places responsibility for safety and security back in the hands of survivors, and ultimately registers public anxieties about how the abstract prospect of ‘risk’ is changing how people live and act in the twenty-first-century.

Going Further

’31 Essential Science Fiction Terms and Where They Came From’, iO9,

A debate about the popularity of contemporary post-apocalyptic novels between two literature scholars in the literary magazine Public Books:  Ursula Heise, ‘What’s the Matter with Dystopia?’ & Andrew Hoberek, ‘The Post-Apocalyptic Present’,

‘Will 2017 be 1984?’, Alluvium Journal, . Caroline Edwards and Ben Worthy revisit George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) in light of political events of 2017.

‘Zombie Preparedness: Graphic Novel’. Zombie graphic novel released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention educating readers about ‘emergency preparedness’

Science-fiction authors Ursula Le Guin and Margaret Atwood discuss the category of ‘speculative fiction’



Linguistics and the way we learn!

by YPU Admin on October 5, 2017, Comments. Tags: foreign languages, Humanities, language acquisition, linguistics, and MFL


My name is Sascha Stollhans and I’m a PhD student in Linguistics at the University of Manchester. Linguistics is the scientific study of language and an incredibly versatile and interdisciplinary subject. Linguists look at all sorts of things related to language, e. g. the structure and sounds of language, how language is represented in the mind, how similar or different languages are, how we use language to express our thoughts, feelings and opinions, or even to insult people, why we talk differently depending on who we are talking to, and so on.

 My research investigates the acquisition of foreign languages, in particular how the languages we know interact with and influence one another.

In Depth…

At school I always enjoyed foreign languages the most. That’s why I decided to study Linguistics and French at University, followed by a Master’s degree in Language Teaching. I like to discover how languages work, how we learn them and what successful language teaching should be like.

 Being a great enthusiast of languages, I’ve always found it unfair that children learn their first language so effortlessly. Why can something so natural turn into rather hard work when we are older? What can we do to make language learning as effective and enjoyable as possible? It was my interest in questions like these that made me choose to become a linguist and language teacher.

 After a few years working as a language teacher, I came to Manchester to take up my PhD in Linguistics. My study explores how previously acquired languages influence the process of learning a new language.

Specifically, I work with English learners of French and German. With the help of a number of experiments, my aim is to shed some light on the way several languages in our mind might influence one another.

 For example, I am trying to find out if the fact that someone speaks French makes a difference when they start learning German. Could the additional language make it easier for them, or might it in fact be a hindrance?

 In order to investigate this, I will conduct a number of experiments with language learners. For instance, I will do an eye-tracking study, which looks at the way our eyes move while we process sentences in a foreign language. Comparing the eye movements of native speakers with those of language learners can tell us a lot about the struggles languages learners have.

 The results of my study will hopefully provide some explanations and help make language teaching and learning easier and more effective. They might help us explain why language learners find certain aspects of the language more difficult than others, and how we could make sure language teaching is more effective.

What I enjoy most about my PhD is that I can combine the scientific study of language with very relevant real-life problems. I’m using theoretical considerations about language and the results of my research study to tackle real problems. And in doing so, I learn something new every day - be it a new fact about language or a new method.

Going Further…

“What is Linguistics?”: a great introduction to linguistics by the Linguistic Society of America

“What do you start with in a Third Language?”: very interesting YouTube video introducing the linguistics research about people who learn more than one foreign language

 Multilingual Manchester: a project investigating the over 200 languages that are spoken in Manchester

 About eye-tracking as a scientific method:

 Some interesting language-related Twitter accounts:

@EvrydayLg, @WorldOfLang, @lynneguist, @TheLingSpace

 The Linguistics department at Manchester: