Karen Schaller
  • 2.06 Arts and Humanities Building

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Personal profile

Key Research Interests

I have a strong attachment to thinking about feeling. But as well as theorising it, I want to know what happens when we read or write it, or when we see it being read; I am curious about the historical, cultural and political conditions that underpin any taste for feeling, and I am interested in how feeling can account for the critical neglect of literary subjects.

My interest covers any area that touches on feeling: emotion, affect, touch and texture, senses and the body, virtuality, as well as pathologies of feeling. But what I am most fascinated by is critical feeling — the ways in which feeling is at work in in what and how we write, research, and work as academics, and I am particularly interested in how such feelings texture our critical orientations, and our embodiments. I am, in short, interested in the cultural politics of emotion underpinning what we write about, and how we write.

The critical subjects that catch my attention are those that allow us to track the politics of our affective economies – I see ‘emotion’ as a resistant subject that can help us think about the politics of both critical neglect and critical recuperation, and my research maps thinking ‘feeling’ onto other similarly difficult, resistant or neglected subjects.  

Although I work mostly in late 19th to 21st century literatures, my interest in the history of thinking feeling is trans-historical. My methodologies are multi- and interdisciplinary, and I work across critical, creative, and creative-critical forms. Although I engage with a range of theoretical and philosophical perspectives I am most informed by feminism and deconstruction and my writing is frequently in dialogue with psychoanalysis. I am particularly interested in methodologies that transgress the boundaries of what constitute literary analysis, and work in multi-modal, creative critical and interdisciplinary modes: since my MA I have been interested in positioning literary scholarship as entangled with living and seek research practices that can explore this.

Please note that I am on research leave until the end of January 2024 and unable to take on new doctoral students for the coming year or round of applications.

This autumn I will be completing my manuscript for Feminist Tactics: Feeling, Gendered Labour and Praxis in the Contemporary Univeristy. In this book I ask what feminist practice looks like within the gendered labour conditions of the contemporary university. I read everyday scenes from academic life — not only research and teaching, but also assessment, administration, collegiality and appraisal — that materialise these gender conditions. I work over these as sites of feeling whose textures fabricate gendered orientations, affects and embodiments. I draw the materials of these scenes (emails, institutional languages, policy documents) into uncomfortable contacts with the violent misogynies of our cultural imaginaries at work in literature, film and art. I learn from feminist practices that mobilise such affects into new moods, and modes. And I repurpose these textures of feeling in my own writing in order to explore whether our academic gender conditions might, also, be generative and creative, materialising new forms of feminist practice in the contemporary university. 

I am also a member of 'Witching the Institution', a multi-modal collaboration with Dr Ruth Charnock in which we examine how witchcraft is being increasingly practiced as a feminist, queer and critical anti-racist methodology fusing literary, aesthetic, and performance modes in order to not only critique the neoliberal industrial knowledge complex (the modern university), but to create spaces, practices, and embodied affective experiences capable of challenging and overcoming distinctions between ‘academic’ and ‘public’ bodies to configure new kinds of politicised critique, action and world-building. ‘Witching the Institution’ locates witchcraft as an emerging body of feminist praxis that straddles academic and public audiences, spaces, and indeed knowledge-making and inquiry. Crucially, however, our work is not simply an account of these emerging practices: we situate ourselves in the body of witchcraft we cite, engaging ritual, incantation, and traditional spell-casting from our respective heritages in order to re-orient audiences to academia as an institution that relies on spell-binding us to legacies of violence that, far from in the past, continue to animate contemporary knowledge-making. Engaging multi-modal embodied methodologies, we pose our work as counter-spells to this violence. Our chapter 'Witching the Institution: Academia and Feminist Witchcraft' will be coming out in Jane Ward and Soma Chaduri's forthcoming edited collection The Witch Studies Reader (Duke University Press: Durham, forthcoming 2024).

Although Covid-19 forced me to put my archival based work on hold, I have two further book projects under development. Fictions of Feeling: Elizabeth Bowen’s Short Stories, based on my doctoral research, shows how the status of Elizabeth Bowen’s short stories can be understood in terms of their theorisation of affect. Thinking feeling in radical ways, her short stories intervene not only in critical debates about her work and her contemporaries’, but also in contemporary debates about feeling itself. A follow-on project, Crimes of Passion: Gender, Feeling and the Affective Economies of Mid-Twentieth Century Literature builds on my work on Bowen and on Sylvia Townsend Warner by reading feeling in the work of five critically neglected and/or recuperated mid-century British writers: Bowen and la Crime Passionel; Townsend Warner’s impolitics of love; Betty Miller’s tackiness; Elizabeth Taylor’s ejaculations; and Patrick Hamilton’s feminine feeling.

Recent Publications:

  • 'Not in the Mood: Reading Love in the Contemporary University' in Savage, Dikova, McMahon (Eds), Politics of Care (Bloomsbury Academic: London, 2022). I ask about the attachments to, and violences of, love in the academic institution by reading two kinds of critical love scenes, or plots: the humanities scholars’ loving attachment to their discipline in our cultural imaginary, and the rhetoric of love in contemporary defences of the humanities. Reading a Donna Tartt's The Secret History, AS Byatt's Possession, Zadie Smith's On Beauty, and Luca Guadagnino's film Call me by your name, I argue that if we are to imagine new critical moods -- and new critical modes -- perhaps we must be prepared to relinquish love.
  • ‘Feeling Political: Elizabeth Bowen in the 1940s’ in Tew and White (Eds), The 1940s: A Decade of Modern British Fiction ( Bloomsbury Academic Publishing: London, 2022). No longer neglected, Elizabeth Bowen has emerged as a significant twentieth century British writer. Here I consider how her work in the 1940s can be situated both in relation to the period, and to her literary and critical inheritances, and argue that her primary concern in the period is with the politics of feeling, and how it is being shaped by the government as a resource for the war.
  • 'The True Heart: Sylvia Townsend Warner's Impolitics of Love' in Textual Practice (April 2021). Here I situate Warner's critical neglect in terms of the ugliness of love that her novel imagines. I argue that Warner’s novel asks us to rethink our critical attachments to love. 
  • ‘Feminist Dwellings: Imagining the Domestic in the Twenty-first-century Literary Novel’ in Cooke, J. Ed, New Feminist Studies: Twenty-first-century Critical Interventions (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, December 2020). In this chapter I observe feminism’s refusal, in the twenty first century, to relinquish the domestic as a site or language for imagining feminist possibility and practice, in order to read the domestic in Zadie Smith’s On Beauty (2005)Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home (2011) and Miranda July’s First Bad Man (2015). 
  • ‘Lipo-literacy’ in Thorkelson and Mason-Deese (Eds), A Day is a Struggle (2021). This creative-critical piece, the beginning of a chapter in my book investiates how the discipline of literary scholarship is entangled with body-work. Reading fatness and analysis as imbricated plot-lines that render epistemic status a matter of embodiment, I work to produce lipo-literacy as a paradoxical position for the fat woman academic whose literary discipline is un-read by their materiality. Peer-Reviewed Global Feminist Anthology Open Access at https://a-day-is-a-struggle.decasia.org

Past Publications:

  • Schaller, K. (2013) ‘I know it to be synthetic but it affects me strongly’: ‘Dead Mabelle’ and Bowen’s emotion pictures’ in Textual Practice 27 (1). pp. 163-185. ISSN 0950-236X 
  • Schaller, K. (2008) ‘Finding Form and Inspiration’ in Cole, Knowles, and Promislow (eds.) Creating Scholartistry:  Imagining the Arts-informed Thesis or Dissertation (Backalong Press) ISBN 978-1-894132-30-5.
  • Schaller, K. (2004) ‘Excerpt from “A Writing Story, on Being Written:  a Thetic Play on Words”’ in Coles, Knowles, Luciani & Neilsen (eds.) Provoked by Art:  Theorizing Arts-Informed Research (Backalong Press) ISBN: 1-894132-08-4. 
  • Schaller, K. (2001) ‘Travel as Research, Research as Travel’ in Coles, Knowles & Neilsen (eds.) The Art of Writing Inquiry (Backalong Press) ISBN 1-894132-06-8
  • Schaller, K. (2008) ‘The Haircut’ in New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing Vol. 5:3, pp. 197-200, ISSN: 1479-0726.
  • Schaller, K. (2010) ‘The Swimmer’. The New Writer, 101
  • Schaller, K. (2010) ‘D.E.W. Line and Passiflora Edulis’. The New Writer, 100
  • Schaller, K. (2006) ‘The Cartoon Man’ in Succour: The New Fiction, Poetry and Art, Issue 3 ‘Radio Eye’.
  • Schaller, K. (2006) ‘Speech Therapy’ in Breach, Issue #2, Thursday Press, Brighton.


Recent Conferences and Invited Papers/Performances

  • 'Witching the Institution: Feminist Witchcraft and Academia'. Film. 'Magic and Spirituality in 21st Century Media and Culture', Goldsmith's University. June 30, 2023.
  • 'Witching the Institution: Feminist Witchcraft and Academia'. Live Performance. Invited Speakers York St John School of Humanities Methodologies Research Seminar. March 7 2023.
  • “Embodied Metaphor: Architecture and Feeling” and “Feminist Dwelling”, Invited Speaker, Norwich University of the Arts, Dec 10, 2018.
  • “Absorption and Contemporary Literary Practice”, British Association for Contemporary Literary Study, ‘What Happens Now 2018’, July 10-12 2018. Collaboration with Dr Ruth Charnock, Senior Lecturer in Literature, Lincoln University.
  • “Brilliance and the Domestic Labour of Contemporary Literature Studies”, Invited Speaker at York St John Research Seminar, May 16, 2018.
  • The True Heart: Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Impolitics of Love” at ‘Sylvia Townsend Warner and Modernism, Manchester, April 6-8, 2018.
  • “Contact Work: Affect, Literature and Pedagogy” Invited Speaker at ‘Feminist Methodologies’, Symposium at Loughborough University, March 20-21, 2018.
  • “Rubbing: Feminine Diligence and Masculine Shine”, Invited Speaker at Lincoln University Humanities Research Seminar, Nov 17, 2017.
  • “Rubbing: Feminine Diligence and Masculine Shine” at ‘Intimaterial’, Royal College of Art, London, Jun 15-16 2017.



Teaching Interests

Teaching and Research Supervision:

I’ve taught and convened at all year levels, including a number of years leading our largest undergraduate core module, and have substantial experience supervising undergraduate and MA dissertations in literature, philosophy, and art history.

My research-led teaching has included: The Art of Emotion: Literature, Writing, Feeling (final year); Fiction ‘after’ Modernism?: Re-reading the 20th Century (MA); Minor Literatures: Resistance, Radicalisation and Reading (final year, co-taught with my colleague Dr Jacob Huntley); The Short Story (second year); War Lives: Writing Britain in WWII (second year), Traumaturgies: Reading and Writing Trauma Across Contexts (third year). 

I have examined more than 13 PhDs for upgrade or probation and acted as internal examiner for one viva. I’ve supervised eight PhDs to completion (five AHRC/CHASE funded). My students work in areas related to emotion and/or feminism, and work either on critical PhDs or I supervise the critical component of their PhD in Creative and Critical Writing. Projects include:

  • transmission technologies in the late 1960s fiction of Coover, Pynchon, Brophy and Kavan (A. Meric-Cleaver, current)
  • bodies, meat and the feminine (M. Pearson, current)
  • post-9/11 material affect (E. Page, current)
  • militant suffragettes and imperial narratives: novel and critical study (F. Sinclair, current)
  • compassion, contemporary literature and healthcare ethics (E. Vince, current)
  • twenty-first-century feminist short stories: short story collection and critical thesis (M. Appleton, current)
  • gendered island imaginaries: novel and critical thesis (Dr D. Redd, completed)
  • trauma and identity in South East Asian Literature: novel and critical thesis (Dr S. Tao, completed)
  • Buddhism, trauma and pedagogy in contemporary performance art: practise-based PhD (Dr P. Clarke, completed)
  • critically neglected twentieth century women writers including:
  • Betty Miller (Dr L. Felgett, completed)
  • AL Barker (Dr K. Jones, completed)
  • Ann Quin (Dr N. Williams, completed)
  • Elizabeth Taylor (Dr D. Freeborne, completed)


Prospective PhD students: I am not able to take on new doctoral researchers for the foreseeable future. 

Administrative Posts

After extensive administrative contributions to the school and faculty, I am currently focusing on my research while continuing to teach undergraduate and MA modules, and supervise doctoral research.


Past Administrative Service in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing:

  • Executive Team (2017-2019)
  • Employability Director (2017-2019)
  • MFA Creative-Writing Convenor (Jan - June 2019). I helped design the creative writing pedagogy component of this degree, and took over convening last spring to cover research leave.
  • Teaching Committee (2012-2019)
  • Staff Student Liaison Committee (2012-2019)
  • Course Director for Q300 English Literature (2012-2018)
  • Teaching Quality (2012-2018)
  • Exam Board (2012-2018)
  • designed and led Teaching Forum (2010-2013)
  • designed and led Subject-Specific Teaching Programme (for literature and creative-critical doctoral researchers) (2010-2013)

Past Administrative Service in the Faculty of Humanities: 

  • Faculty of Humanities Employability Executive (2017-2019)
  • University Senate Member (2016-2018)
  • MA Gender Studies Development Group led by Professor Yvonne Tasker, Dean Faculty of Arts and Humanities (2016-2017). I co-designed one of the core modules for the MA (‘Gender in Study’).
  • co-designed and co-taught the Faculty of Humanities AHRC/CHASE-funded doctoral training programme ‘Preparing to Teach’ (2010 - 2016)
  • Transitions Steering Committee led by Dr Clive Matthews, Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching Quality (2015-2016), dedicated to redeveloping HUM induction programmes.
  • ThoughtOut (Public Humanities) led by Professor Sarah Churchwell (2009-2011)


I did my Honours BA in English Literature and European History at Dalhousie University in Canada from 1993-1997. After a few years of travelling and working I studied pedagogical philosophy at Mount Saint Vincent University from 2000-2002, specialising in radical feminist, critical anti-racist and social justice approaches to epistemology and research methodology. My thesis was about the politics of emotion in scholarly discourse, and argued for the need to engage non-traditional forms of representation for social justice in knowledge-making. I was awarded a Canadian Governor General's Gold Academic Medal and a Senate Medal of Distinction for my academic achievements and research potential.

After graduating I spent three years working as Director of Fundraising and Communications of the Nova Scotia branch of Leave Out ViolencE, a Canadian youth violence intervention and prevention programme. Throughout my MA and my not-for-profit career I volunteered with a range of community and grassroots organisations including teaching creative writing for at-risk youth, teaching English as a Second Language to refugees and landed immigrants, tutoring elementary and high-school English and composition for youth in care, running a feminist reading group for teens, and hosting local Council of Canadians meetings.

In 2005 I left Halifax to spend most of the year caring for my niece while living in the Loire Valley in France. That October I started my DPhil in English Literature at the University of Sussex under the supervision of Professor Peter Boxall.

During my PhD I taught literature and feminist theory at Sussex, research methods, journalism, communications and marketing at Middlesex University in London, and literature for English Education students at the University of Brighton. I published three chapters from my MA research in the Arts Informed Inquiry Series, edited by members of the Center for Arts-Informed Research (formerly with University of Toronto now hosted at MSVU), and began publishing short stories and poetry.  

In September 2009 I joined UEA’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing September as Lecturer in Literature on a teaching-intensive contract, and for the next year and a half was a Lecutrer by day and doctoral researcher by night. I was awarded my DPhil in 2011. In my teaching-intensive role I spent a number of years leading the English Literature degree, working as Employability Director for the School, and contributing to Faculty level initiatives such as a public intellectuals project, a project to redesign our HUM induction programmes, and co-designing a core module on the MA in Gender Studies. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2014 and, more recently, was able to move to a research-recognised contract as Lecturer. After substantial contributions to the School and Faculty in teaching and academic administration and service work, I am now focusing on my research career. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions