In 2017 I successfully defended my PhD thesis, Norming the Other: Narrative Empathy Via Focalised Heterotopia:


This critical commentary argues that the novels submitted (emphasis on Ammonite, The Blue Place, and Hild, with three others, Slow River, Stay, and Always briefly referenced), form a coherent body of work which centres and norms the experience of the Other, particularly queer women. Close reading of the novels demonstrates how specific word-choice and metaphor locate the examination of a focalised character’s body in its physical and sensory setting. This examination of the body is referred to as embodiment. The commentary argues that embodiment of the focalised character activates neural mechanisms within the reader to create and sustain narrative empathy. It explores the creation of focalised heterotopias and the narrative consequences for characters traditionally marginalised in our society but not in their own.

I wrote a 5-part feature on the how, why, where, what etc. of that doctorate:

  1. Opportunity: how I became a PhD candidate even though I had no degree
  2. Decision: why I wanted a PhD
  3. Choice: how I chose my subject/university/supervisor
  4. Experience: solving the challenges of writing a PhD thesis while still writing novels, having a life, and managing MS
  5. Future: the impact a PhD may have on my writing

If you wish to download the archival PDF, it’s deposited in the Anglia Ruskin University digital archive, ARRO, with a persistent digital identifier which won’t break:

However, if for citation purposes you prefer an actual DOI, I’ve also deposited it with the Humanities Commons:

Both are exactly the same archival PDF. It’s also available directly from this site: