Research bites

Quick news items on the research achievements and activities of those within the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures.

29 July 2022

We are delighted to share that Prof. William Lamb (PI - Celtic and Scottish Studies) and Dr Beatrice Alex (Co-I - English Literature) have won AHRC funding for the project 'Decoding Hidden Heritages in Gaelic Traditional Narrative with Text-Mining and Phylogenetics'.

About to enter its second year, this project combines qualitative analysis with cutting-edge computational methods to decode, interpret and curate the hidden heritages of Gaelic traditional culture. The project team includes Co-Is based at Durham University, Dublin City University, University College Dublin, and Indiana University. The team has partnered with Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches (Scotland’s online resource dedicated to the presentation and promotion of audio recordings of Scotland’s cultural heritage) and the Government of Ireland, to provide the most detailed account to date of the similarities and differences in Scottish and Irish Gaelic narrative traditions.

Through an approach known as text-mining, the project team will use artificial intelligence to search tales for similar topics, phrases and other linguistic patterns. The matches that are found will be correlated with what is known about the texts themselves. Another approach, known as phylogenetic network analysis, will be used to comb relationships between the texts' themes and the people who produced them. The team will combine these two approaches to create a unified account of Scottish and Irish oral narrative, which will transform our understanding about Gaelic oral culture, and will provide unique archival material to a diverse audience.

Find out more about William's research on his Research Profile

Find out more about Beatrce's research on her Research Profile


27 July 2022

Dr Patrick Errington, Early Career Teaching and Research Fellow in English Literature, secured an award from the latest round of the Challenge Investment Fund (CIF). The project team have been working throughout this semester, and have just completed the Challenge Investment Funded portion of this project.

Poetry is difficult, full of allusions, figurations, and novel metaphors. But reading poetry is often deeply pleasurable. How is this pleasure related to difficulty? In a preliminary behavioural study, Patrick, alongside PPLS Co-Investigator Dr Dan Mirman, and Research Assistant Melissa Thye, found that in certain cases an optimal degree of linguistic difficulty increased readers’ pleasurable feeling. Literary theorists have suggested that the pleasure experienced in 'optimally difficult' literature is related to an increase in physical sensation.

In this CIF-funded project, the team have extended their behavioural study with neuroimaging to establish a relationship between 'optimal' linguistic difficulty, pleasure, and neural immersiveness or embodiment. Their experiment will provide a basis for an extensive series of studies to further examine how immersion and pleasure are affected by the anticipation of various post-reading tasks, how these affect reading habits, and how reading habits can influence reader well-being.


2 June 2022

Dr Kholoud al-Ajarma, Alwaleed Lecturer in the Globalised Muslim World, has secured an award from the latest round of the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account awards.

The value of water is about much more than its price – water has enormous and complex value and is at the core of sustainable development. Nonetheless, official and academic discourse on water management largely ignores a wealth of traditional knowledge about, and non-economic values attached to, water.

"Valuing Water: Religious, social and cultural perspectives from a water-scarce region" highlights the value of water from perspectives that are often ignored in traditional water management policies in the Mediterranean region. The project aims to encourage a more comprehensive understanding of water's true, multi-dimensional value, using workshops, local and regional meetings, and audio-visual production. The project seeks to increase water awareness to help safeguard this critical resource, and work towards water security and sustainability in the Mediterranean region and beyond.

For this project, Kholoud has partnered with Laje'oon Center, a community-based grassroots creative cultural centre that works with new generations of Palestinians - they will be providing additional support for the project's activities. Throughout 2022, Kholoud will be working alongside a team of local facilitators, filmmakers, musicians, translators and storytellers, to run a series of workshops in the West Bank, and to produce a number of related audio-visual resources. The resources will be shared with the wider community, and the recommendations from the workshops will be disseminated in meetings with government officials and funding agencies, to advocate for community-led development of water management.


19 May 2022


In 2019, the University of Edinburgh Biopolis project invited a selection of prominent writers living in Scotland to engage in conversations with cutting-edge researchers based at the University of Edinburgh in order to create speculative stories about the impact of biotechnology on urban life. The project aimed to expand imaginaries around urban futures by looking at new discoveries of biotechnology, new expressions of biodesign, and new understandings of natural systems, expressed through fiction and artistic means.

In the latest event in the series, Dr Nadanai Laohakunakorn, Chancellor’s Fellow in Biotechnology, and Dr Jane Alexander, creative writing lecturer and writer of speculative fiction, reflected on their Biopolis collaboration, which asked how synthetic biology might affect our built environment. Nadanai described his research into cell-free synthetic biology, framed through the lens of approaching science as a creative enterprise, while Jane addressed how creative writing as research can operate as a means of inquiry that produces interdisciplinary knowledge.

In discussion, they considered some of the questions that emerged from their collaboration: what can science learn from the creative approaches of fiction, and vice versa? What kind of knowledge is produced by such collaborations? What happens when the emotion, empathy and ambiguity that characterise fictional investigations converge with the rational search for unambiguous clarity that characterises scientific research? How can sci-art collaborations go beyond public engagement - how can scientific research benefit from collaboration with imaginative writing?


Find out more about Jane's research on her Research Profile


28 April 2022

Dr Yoko Sturt (Asian Studies) has received funding from the Japan Foundation for the event "Beyond Kanji Teaching: Culture, values and issues in Kanji writing".

Yoko will organise an online conference which will reexamine traditional kanji (Chinese characters) teaching in the framework of experiential learning, from the point of view of non-kanji-background and heritage Japanese learners. The project aims to examine various problems that occur when non-kanji-using learners of Japanese write kanji characters using a pen/biro, explore the points of contact between Japanese language education in Japan and overseas, especially the UK, and examine the visual culture of Japan regarding the art of handwriting, and the related linguistic landscape in everyday life in Japan. 

"Beyond Kanji Teaching" will be open to the public, mainly for those involved in Japanese language education and inherited languages, and for inter-sectoral kanji learners from heritage language backgrounds, and in secondary, university, and adult education, followed by a post-conference workshop addressing an under researched topic regarding issues in "left-handed" writers.

Find out more about Yoko's research on her Research Profile


21 April 2022

Dr Katie Pleming (French and Francophone Studies) is part of a consortium that has been awarded funding from the UNA Europa Digitzed! call.

Katie will work with colleagues from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and KU Leuven to create The Digital Public Space Research Network. 

Bringing together early career researchers from five UNA Europa institutions, this research network will consider how the digital has transformed and will transform the public space. Developing the idea of a ‘digital public space’, this network will interrogate both the underlying ideas and theories which illuminate current practices on the internet, and the ways in which the Humanities can promote more ethical forms of online engagement and activity.


Find out more about Katie's research on her Research Profile


10 April 2022

The Alexander Nove Prize was established by the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES) in 1995, and is awarded annually for scholarly work of high quality in Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet studies. The 2020 prize, which was announced in early 2022, was awarded to Prof. Katharine Hodgson (Exeter) and Dr Alexandra Smith (Russian Studies) for their co-authored monograph "Poetic Canons: Cultural memory and Russian national identity after 1991" (Peter Lang, 2020).

Find out more on the BASEES website [external]

Find out more about Alexandra's research on her Research Profile


7 April 2022

Dr Fabien Arribert-Narce (DELC) has been awarded funding from the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation for the project 'Image, Music, Text', which forms part of the research partnership in Intermediality Studies between the University of Edinburgh and Meiji University, Tokyo.

The partnership, the first collaborative project between Japan and the UK in the field of intermedia studies, was launched in autumn 2021, and the inaugural workshop took place in Edinburgh earlier this month.

Intermediality is a new discipline that investigates the links between media: media combinations (such as computer installations, illuminated manuscripts and opera), medial transposition (such as film adaptations and novelizations), and intermedial references (such as references to a painting in a film). Intermedia analysis enables researchers to explore the connections across different media, engaging with cutting-edge scholarly discussions about the nature of print and digital media, the relationship between texts and images, adaptation, the book as communicative tool, and digitization.

The planned workshops will reshape discussion in intermedia studies by providing an extended reflection on the strategies and scholarly influence of Roland Barthes, with particular focus on the collection of Barthes' key writings, Image, Music, Text. The collaboration will develop some of Barthes’ ideas on the status of intermedia in communication across languages: what happens when intermediality and translation occur at the same time? What can translation and multilingualism show us about medial transposition and media combination and vice versa? How does intermediality relate to multi-modality, language learning and communication?

The GBSF funding will allow four delegates from LLC (Dr Arribert-Narce, Prof. Marion Schmid, Dr Francois Giraud and third-year LLC PhD student Matthis Hervieux) to travel to Tokyo in December 2022 for the second project workshop

Find out more about Fabien's research on his Research Profile

Find out more about Marion's research on her Research Profile


1 April 2022

Four Edinburgh academics have been appointed to the Department of Culture Media and Sport’s College of Experts. The experts are part of a cohort of 49 external experts from across academia and industry who will provide a mechanism for the department to access external expertise and guidance.

Congratulations to Prof. Melissa Terras (English Literature), along with Orian Brook (SPS), Ewa Luger (ECA), and Mark Parsons (CSE).


25 March 2022

The Edinburgh Impact bulletin recently published an interview with Dr Nicola Frith from the French section of the Department of European Languages and Cultures on her work as part of the International Network of Scholars and Activists for Afrikan Reparations. 

Nicola is currently undertaking research activities in Benin and Ghana funded by her AHRC follow on funding award for the project "Rethinking Reparations for African Enslavement as Cultural, Spiritual and Environmental Repair".

 Read the full interview on the Edinburgh Impact website


23 March 2022

We are delighted to share that Dr Benjamin Bateman, English Literature, has won British Academy funding for the project "Fictions of Survival: Pandemic literature and our present time".

How can literature written in response to previous pandemics speak to the concerns and contingencies of the present coronavirus pandemic? Living through the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have often found ourselves referring to 'unprecedented times', but does this view run the risk of failing to engage with previous pandemics, the differential threats they posed (and continue to pose) to marginalised and vulnerable populations, and the creative responses they inspired among writers and artists?

With funding from the British Academy, Benjamin will organise a two-day symposium inviting literary scholars to present on a range of topics relating to pandemic literatures. Drawing on theoretical approaches from queer theory, postcolonial theory, and the environmental and medical humanities, the presentations and discussions from the symposium will explore fictional, poetic, creative nonfictional and autobiographical representations of pandemics. Following the symposium, contributors will be invited to shape their presentations into essays, to be featured in a special collection, which will explore literary reactions to previous pandemics and the relevance of those responses to our contemporary moment of quarantines, lockdowns, social distancing, treatment inequity, and emotional overload.

 Find out more about Benjamin's research on his Research Profile


17 March 2022

Prof. Frédéric Volpi, Director of the Alwaleed Centre, has received funding with colleagues from University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Coventry University for their project "Digital British Islam: How do Cyber Islamic Environments impact everyday life?"

The Economic and Social Research Council have awarded a grant of £804k (£232k for the Edinburgh part of the project), to provide Frédéric and his colleagues with funding for this three year research project starting in May.

Cyber-Islamic environments’ (CIEs) is an umbrella term, used to describe how different forms of internet media are used within diverse Muslim contexts.  The research will map how CIEs are growing and evolving in relation to intergenerational changes within diverse UK Muslim communities. The research team will explore how digital practices are shaping every day, in-person and ‘real’ experiences of Muslim beliefs in Britain. The research will focus on three themes that generate much public debate - religious authority, gender, and political agency. The project will utilise an online archive, a survey, and interviews.

Read more about the project on the UKRI Gateway to Research website

 Find out more about Frédéric's research on his Research Profile


8 March 2022

Dr Alexandra Smith, Reader in Russian Studies, along with her co-author Katharine Hodgson, is the recipient of The British Association of Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES) Alexander Nove Prize 2020 (awarded in 2022) for their book 'Poetic Canons, Cultural Memory and Russian National Identity after 1991' (Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Vienna: Peter Lang, 2020). Read more about Alexandra and Katharine's book, described as an original and compelling work which speaks to a wide array of important topics in Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet studies, far beyond its principal literary focus, on the BASEES website.

Link to the BASEES Alexander Nove Prize page

 Find out more about Alexandra's research on her Research Profile


1 March 2022

Norwegian Literature Abroad (NORLA) named Dr Guy Puzey (DELC - Scandinavian Studies) their Translator of the Month for March 2022. 

NORLA works to advance the export of Norwegian literature through active promotion and funding for translation of books from Norway. Each month, they showcase the vital work of translators from the Norwegian language in their 'Translator of the Month' interview series.

You can read the full interview with Guy via the NORLA website, linked in this post.

Read the full interview with Guy via the NORLA website [external]

Find out more about Guy's research on his Research Profile


1 March 2022

The 'Current and Recent Research Projects' page of the LLC website is designed to provide an insight into the varied and exciting research activities taking place throughout the School. Recently, the LLC Research Office has been working with the School's Web and Communications team to update this page, and to make sure we are capturing as many ongoing and recent research activities as we can. 

The process of updating the site will continue over the coming months, and you can view all of the projects that have been added to the site so far via the link below:

View Our Current and Recent Research Projects on the LLC Website


24 February 2022

We are excited to share that Dr William Lamb (Celtic and Scottish Studies) has been awarded Scottish Government funding for the project Crowdsourcing the Acquisition of Gaelic Language Speech Technology Training Data.

In recent years, Scottish Gaelic has begun to be represented more and more in several language processing fields and resources, e.g. part-of-speech tagging, syntactic parsing, machine translation (via Google Translate), handwriting recognition and voice synthesis, and in 2021, a team of researchers at UOE developed another key component of modern language technology: an automatic speech recognition system (ASR).

The Gaelic ASR system relies on data-intensive machine learning methods. The tool is created by training a computer algorithm to recognise useful patterns across large stores of textual and audio data. Gaining the data suitable for this kind of aproach is a challenge for most minority languages, due to a sparsity of digitised audio and text. This project seeks to involve the Gaelic community as a key resource for generating and validating training data for the system.

With this most recent funding, William, together with Co-I Dr Peter Bell (School of Informatics) will work with the Centre for Speech Technology Research, and with an external consultant, to build a foundation for crowdsourcing ASR data from Gaelic speakers at large. They will gather and offer access to a series of Gaelic language tools that have been developed by UOE, via a single public-facing website. This site will host the prototype Gaelic ASR tool, along with a prototype text normalisation tool and a multi-functional text analysis tool, along with any other tools developed in the future. The website will also include a means for involving the Gaelic community in correcting the textual output of the ASR tool.

The site will enable anyone with a connected device to access a range of useful Gaelic tools and, by involving the Gaelic-speaking public in the development of the ASR tool, the team will both strengthen the tool's training data, and educate a wider audience about language technology.

 Find out more about William's research on his Research Profile


23 February 2022

In 1984, Anthony Burgess published Ninety-Nine Novels, a selection of his favourite novels in English since 1939. The ​​​​​​​Ninety-Nine Novels podcast, by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, explores the novels on Burgess's list with the help of writers, critics and other special guests.

A recent episode saw English Literature's Dr Simon Malpas in conversation with Graham Foster of the Burgess Foundation, focusing on Thomas Pynchon's novel Gravity's Rainbow. Listen to the full episode via the link below.

Listen to the Ninety Nine Novels Podcast [external]

 Find out more about Simon's research on his Research Profile


21 February 2022

Melissa Terras, Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage and Director of Research at the Edinburgh Futures Institute, along with colleagues from the School of Law, the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, St Andrews University and consultants The List, has been awarded from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for the project ‘Towards large-scale Cultural Analytics in the Arts and Humanities’.

This five month project is a pilot study to create a service by which researchers can access recently produced commercial data in order to generate accurate data-led analysis and visualisation of the UK's creative sector. The research will support the development and design of a data repository for the capture and analysis of UK cultural and creative industries data at scale, focusing particularly on events-based data.

Melissa has also been appointed to the Department of Culture Media and Sport’s College of Experts. The experts are part of a cohort of 49 external experts from across academia and industry who will provide a mechanism for the department to access external expertise and guidance. 

Find out more about the Edinburgh Futures Institute 

 Find out more about Melissa's research on her Research Profile


3 February 2022

We are delighted to share that Dr Holly Stephens (Asian Studies) has been awarded an ESRC Fund for International Collaboration UK-South Korea Connections Grant, for her project "Environmental Sustainability and Economic Collaboration in the Longue Durée: A comparative approach to locality, history, and development".

The ESRC UK-South Korea Connections opportunity was commissioned to expand the level of engagement in Social Science and Humanities research between the UK and South Korea. Holly will be leading a network that will bring together researchers based in South Korea and the United Kingdom to compare examples of economic cooperation and environmental resource management in Korea with similar intersections in other parts of the world. The project team also includes Co-Investigators at Durham University and Ewha Womans University, Seoul.

The network is particularly interested in local cooperatives and organizations that historically have been used to manage environmental resources. The network's objective is to situate these cases in a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective to better understand how different forms of organization and resource ownership intersect with processes (and possibilities) of sustainability and cooperation. Over the next eighteen months, network activities include an international workshop hosted by LLC on the theme of "Sustainable Resource Management in Comparative and Historical Perspective", and an international conference hosted by Ewha Womans University. Throughout the award, visiting scholars from South Korea will be hosted at LLC and at Durham University.


 Find out more about Holly's research on her Research Profile


26 January 2022

An article by Prof. David Farrier (English Literature) has been published on the BBC Future website. The article explores humanity's impact on evolution in animal behaviour, as well as how culture, technology and animal ingenuity have played a part in human evolution.

Read the full article o nthe BBC Future website [external]

Find out more about David's research on his Research Profile


17 January 2022

Dr Charlotte Bosseaux, Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies, has been awarded an AHRC Research, Development and Engagement Research Fellowship for her project on responding to ethical elements of Gender-Based Violence translation. 

Exacerbated by factors such as the social effects of COVID-19 and the refugee crisis in Europe, United Nations figures indicate that one in three women will experience Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in their lifetime. This 18-month practice-based project will create two versions of a multilingual documentary that audiences will be asked to assess on the basis of whether the translation techniques used have done justice to survivors' voices. In this way, and through asking interpreters and translators how they feel about their work, the film is underpinned by new research into the ethics of translation.

The project is a collaboration with Saheliya, a Scottish-based charity supporting survivors, filmmaker Ling Lee, and language professionals recruited via specialist company Screen Language. As well as establishing which translation method is best for translating audiovisual personal narratives, it will provide good practice guidelines for translators, translation companies, filmmakers and charities, including on how to work together effectively on sensitive material.

Read our interview with Charlotte about the Gender-Based Violence project

Find out more about the project on its website


10 January 2022

Dr Kim Sherwood, Lecturer in Creative Writing, has been commissioned to write three thrillers, set in the world of James Bond and creating a new generation of Double O agents. With the first book due to be published in September, we excitedly wait to find out what Kim has in store for us! 

Read an interview with Kim on the University news page 

 Find out more about Kim's research on her Research Profile