Dr Kirsty Martin

Research interests

My research primarily concerns literature, emotion, and medicine, with a particular emphasis on nineteenth and twentieth-century literature. I’m centrally interested in how close, historicized readings of literary texts can shed light on philosophical questions about thought and feeling that matter across literary periods, and across disciplines.

My first book, Modernism and the Rhythms of Sympathy, was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. This book focuses on understandings of sympathy in the works of Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence and Vernon Lee (the first novelist to use the word 'empathy'). Complicating notions of modernism as hostile to messy emotion and to empathy, it argues that these writers were centrally concerned by how we feel for each other. Offering fresh research into early twentieth-century contexts for thinking about feeling and the body, the monograph also intervenes in current philosophical debate about the relationship between emotion and cognition. I wrote a blog post for OUP which offers an insight into some of the matters discussed in the book – this is available to read http://blog.oup.com/2013/04/modernism-gesture-sympathy/.

I have published a number of article studies on topics connected to thinking about emotion and medicine.  My article on 'Modernism and the Medicalization of Sunlight: D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, and the Sun Cure' was published in Modernism/Modernity in 2016, a chapter on ‘Modernism and Emotion’ is forthcoming in The Bloomsbury Companion to Modernist Literature, ed. Ulrika Maude and Mark Nixon, and my article on 'D. H. Lawrence and Post-natal Depression' has just been published in Cambridge Quarterly.

My next major book project is provisionally entitled Writing Happiness: Literature and Contentment. Happiness is currently being discussed across disciplines, with recent research in politics, economics, and the new ‘positive psychology’. My book will explore some of the complexities inherent in thinking about ‘making happiness’, covering a range of nineteenth and twentieth-century works and considering the relationship between happiness and fiction.  An essay drawing on my early research findings has recently been published in Essays in Criticism.

In addition to my interest in how happiness is thought about by literary texts, I’m also interested in questions of how we articulate the well-being benefits of reading, and in how far current interest in ‘bibliotherapy’ might be connected to a historical legacy of thinking about reading for happiness. In 2015 I organised a HASS (Humanities and Social Sciences Strategy)-funded interdisciplinary workshop on ‘Reading for Happiness: Mind and Memory’ with my colleague Dr Johanna Harris.  I'm currently developing this work further as part of a broader project on literature and well-being.

I have reviewed books for Review of English Studies, Modern Language Review, the Times Literary Supplement  and Literature and History. I have reviewed book proposals for Oxford University Press, Bloomsbury Academic, Anthem Press and Routledge, and manuscripts for the D. H. Lawrence Review , MLR , and Comparative Literature.  


Recent and Forthcoming Talks, Public Lectures and Conference Papers

October 2019, Keynote address, Happiness: Enlightenment to the Present, University of Cambridge.

July 2019 ''So much the point': Iris Murdoch and Happiness', Iris Murdoch Centenary Conference, University of Oxford.

May 2019 ''Ones certainly happy': Virginia Woolf and the Writing of Happiness', Affective Criticism/Affective Forms, University of Birmingham.

May 2018 ''Happiness Was So Much the Point: Happiness, Creativity and Fiction', Symposium on Culture, Creativity and Wellbeing, University of Exeter.

March 2016 'Modernist Literature and the Medicalization of Sunlight', Medical Humanities Seminar, University of Bristol.

November 2015 "Not the sense of well-being': T. S. Eliot and Happiness', Modernist Studies Association, Boston.

April 2015 "For it was the old grief come back in her': D. H. Lawrence and Post-natal Depression, Paris Ouest University (Nanterre).

April 2015 "Time had ceased': Modernism and Happiness', Modernism's Chronic Conditions: Temporality, Medicine, and Disorders of the Self (An interdisciplinary workshop), Exeter.

March 2015 'Writing Happiness: Literature and Contentment', Literature and Emotion Tea-Time Talks, Hull.