In conversation with...Dr Jane Carroll

For Dr Jane Carroll, “landscape” is not just a place, or the setting for a story; it is a whole way of understanding the world.2nd year English Literature student Robbie Hand talks to Dr Jane Carroll about her research and teaching.

Posted: 7 March 2014

image for news story In conversation with...Dr Jane Carroll
Dr Jane Carroll, Lecturer in the Department of English and Creative Writing

“My interest in landscape is in tracing stereotypes and conventions all the way back to their first inception in English literature,” she explains. “They act as a sort of shorthand for the reader, and they go all the way back – we found them in Beowulf, we found them in old Norse literature, in stuff from the 19th century, and then in children’s literature up to things that were published last week.”

Dr Carroll joined the Department of English and Creative Writing in 2012, a year that also saw the publication of her first book, Landscape in Children’s Literature. Research and teaching are closely related: last year, for example, she introduced a new third-year undergraduate module, (Un)homely Spaces in Fiction, which provides a chance to share her research in depth.

“The idea of coming into a classroom and showing people what you’ve found has the same feeling as when you go down to a rock pool as a kid and you have a bucket full of weird crabs and urchins and things, It’s no good until you can show someone how weird it is.”

So far, student response to the new course has reflected her own enthusiasm: “You care passionately about it, so every class is carefully crafted to reflect that passion.”

After completing a PhD at Trinity College Dublin in 2010, Carroll spent a year at the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy, working with the University of Chichester’s Professor Bill Gray. “He had this tiny centre – it had only been open for a couple of months when I went to work for them – and he had no problem phoning the BBC and saying ‘This is the most important thing happening this weekend – you will get your cameras down here now.’ And they did! You just don’t argue with somebody who has that sort of conviction.” The lesson was that “dogged ambition and belief in what you’re doing is absolutely key”.

(Un)homely Spaces in Fiction is one of several research-led modules offered by the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton. Dr Carroll comments “In their final year, students are being prepared for research projects of their own, and I think that’s a huge thing; it’s a much more active way of learning… That long research project sets you up for other things you’ll do afterwards, whether that’s research, teaching, project management, or anything – you’ll have had that experience of doing a big project that’s entirely your own, and I think that’s important.”

Carroll’s research now focuses on material culture in children’s literature, including the novels of Terry Pratchett. “I’m looking at domestic fantasy again, which is my specialist area – the stories where characters move from a real world to an imaginary world and back again – and I’m looking at how we identify a ‘real’ world,” she says.

Interview by Robbie Hand, 2nd year English Literature student

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