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Amelie Doche

Languages and Literature, Birmingham City University

Thesis title:

A Qualitative Study of the Reception of the Literary Arts and its Implications for Public Funding for Writing in the Midlands and Beyond

My doctoral research – carried out in collaboration with the Birmingham-based literature agency Writing West Midlands (hereafter WWM) – seeks to examine the three key discourses permeating contemporary English literary culture: ‘readability’, ‘community’, and ‘value’.

My long-term exposure to and preliminary research of literary criticism, online book reviews, book blurbs, literary award ceremonies, funding documentation from Arts Council England (hereafter ACE), promotional and non-promotional materials produced by WWM and academic literature about contemporary literary culture enabled me to identify the above-mentioned discourses as dominant. Since I did not carry out any statistical analyses, dominant here does not have a quantifiable value. The repetition of these discourses over others entails that they are construed as normative: everyone recognises what constitutes the standard, regardless of whether they play a role in (re)producing it.

My thesis considers that discourses do not occur in a vacuum but always engage with and respond to the cultural and societal contexts in which they occur. Additionally, discourses are entangled with material structures (e.g., web interfaces) and practices (e.g., ways of interacting). My main aim is to show how a holistic approach – including cultural, material, and discourse analysis – of the discourses of ‘readability’, ‘community’, and ‘value’ shed light on the ways in which literary experiences are currently framed. Preliminary analyses lead me to ask the following questions:

  • In the contemporary literary context, is there a link between dominant discourses and dominant practices? Are discourses and practices interrelated or fundamentally separate? Do dominant discourses such as ‘inclusion and diversity’ (included within the wider ‘community’ discourse) serve to replace practices?
  • To what extent can we consider that Web 2.0 is not a neutral space for the reception of new books? What is the part played by default recommendations, algorithms, online reviews, and website affordances, among other features?
  • How does the production and reception of dominant discourses vary between different entities and individuals, including public funding bodies (e.g., ACE), cultural organisations (e.g., WWM), literary awards, academics, writers, and publicly-funded and independently-funded publishers? To what extent do these entities and individuals use societal assumptions to appeal to readers?
  • If the discourses surrounding ‘readability’, ‘community’ and ‘value’ are central to contemporary literary culture, what discourses remain peripheral? Is there any value in seeking to bring centrifugal literary discourses toward the centre?

My PhD thesis comprises three case studies corresponding to the three discourses identified as ‘dominant’. Each case study encompasses four smaller components, although these may change as my work progresses.

My first chapter discusses the notion of ‘readability’ within contemporary literary culture. I focus on (1) the (re)production of readable books on Wattpad; (2) the reception of the ‘readability’ discourse on the Guardian; (3) readability, commercial vs. literary genres, and state-funded vs. privately-funded literature; (4) readability and minoritarian discourses: where do curiosity and literary difficulty come into play?

My second chapter analyses the key theme of ‘community’. I focus on: (1) the (re)production of communities of readers and writers in academic literature; (2) the appeal to communal sentiments on the book-based websites Wattpad and Goodreads; (3) the relationship between ‘community’ and ‘inclusion and diversity’ for ACE and WWM; (4) community and minoritarian discourses: where does individuality come into play?

My third chapter investigates the discourse of ‘value’. I focus on: (1) cultural policy and the entanglement of economic value and happiness; (2) readers as consumers: what do readers value on the crowdfunding publisher website Unbound?; (3) the healing power of literature in times of crises, with particular emphasis on Brexit and Covid-19; (4) value and minoritarian discourses: where do qualitative engagement, disruptive thinking, and challenging stories come into play?

As part of my collaboration with WWM, I aim to produce a thesis which has the potential to counterbalance the industry-led quantitative research that is currently informing public funding for literature. It is hoped that my findings will enable WWM to gain greater understanding of its own role and purposes within the wider literary ecosystem and may inform the agency’s priorities and practices regarding curatorial decisions and audience engagement. 


Research Area

  • Languages and Literature

Publications

Academic

Peer-reviewed articles

Doche, Amélie. 'Relationships, Ideology, and Transitivity: Reading Paul Morel's Mental Landscape'. Journal of Languages, Texts and Society, no. 6 (2022): in press.  

Doche, Amélie, and Andrew S. Ross. '"Here Is My Shameful Confession: I Don't Really 'Get' Poetry": Discerning Reader Types in Responses to Sylvia Plath's Ariel on Goodreads'. Textual Practice (2022): in press.

Doche, Amélie. 'Hear, Here! Conversations, Equations, Translation: On Jonathan Davidson's A Commonplace (2020)'. Journal of Languages, Texts and Society, no. 5 (2021): 225-248.

Doche, Amélie. 'The Art of Coming-In-This-World: On Sylvia Plath's "Elm"'. Iperstoria, no. 17 (2021): 323-342. 

Master's thesis

Doche, Amélie. 'Dialogic Strategies and Outcomes In and Around Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending (2011): A Linguistic-Stylistic Analysis'. Master's thesis, Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3, 2020. 

Reviews

Doche, Amélie. Review of the book Why Study Languages?, by Gabrielle Hogan-Brun. Babel: The Language Magazine, no. 37 (Nov. 2021): 47. Digital Archive - Babel n°37.

Doche, Amélie. Review of the book Nuremberg's Voice of Doom: The Autobiography of the Chief Interpreter at History's Greatest Trials, by Wolfe Frank (edited by Paul Hooley). Babel: The Language Magazine, no. 37 (Nov. 2021): 49. Digital Archive - Babel n°37.

Doche, Amélie. Review of the book Style and Reader Response: Minds, Media, Methods, edited by Alice Bell, Sam Browse, Alison Gibbons and David Peplow. Linguist List, no. 32.2740 (25 Aug. 2021). 

Doche, Amélie. 'Topographical Collection of King George III'. American Journalism 38, no. 2 (2021): 247-248.

Doche, Amélie. Review of the book 492 Confessions d'un tueur à gages, by Klester Cavalcanti. La Villa Gillet, 3 May 2020

Non-Academic

Poetry

Le MédiaPhi, 2018-20, 4 poems: 'Le Corps' (19), 'Ex-ducere: un slam' (20), 'Dé-tendre' (21) & 'Anesthésie' (22). 

Le Passe-Murailles, 2018, 1 poem: 'L'isolement est un long séjour' (75).

Translation English > French

Guide 'Read On', 2021. 'Read On Guide', brochure produced by Writing West Midlands and printed by Clarkeprint. https://readon.eu/resources/download/Read%20On%20Guide-French.pdf. 

'Le silence', 2020. 'The Silence', poem published in A Commonplace: Apples, Bricks & Other People's Poems by Jonathan Davidson. https://jonathandavidson.net/projects/a-commonplace-translations/. 

'Une équation du second degré', 2020. 'A Quadratic Equation', poem published in A Commonplace : Apples, Bricks & Other People's Poems by Jonathan Davidson. https://jonathandavidson.net/projects/a-commonplace-translations/. 

Conferences

  • 'The Manifestation of Voice in Online Book Reviews: Engagement and Diffraction'. Paper presented at the 9th IALS Conference: A Game of Theories, Vilnius University, Lithuania (online), 22-24 October 2021. 
  • 'Online Interpersonal Literacies in Praxis: A SFL-based Stylistic Analysis of Readers' Responses to The Sense of an Ending (2011)'. Paper presented at the PALA Conference, University of Nottingham, UK (online), 7-9 July 2021. 
  • 'Writing and Difference: Towards a Diffractive Stylistics?' Paper presented at the Material Encounters Summer Colloquium: Uncertain Knowledge(s), Birmingham City University, UK (online), 7 July 2021.
  • 'Interpersonal Metadiscourse in Amazon Customer Reviews of Literary Fiction and its Implications for Construing Genre'. Paper presented at the 3rd Metadiscourse Across Genre Conference, Universitat Jaume I de Castelló, Spain (online), 27-28 May 2021.
  • 'Comparative Approaches to the Study of Online Book Reviews: Between Inter-Actions and Intra-Actions'. Paper presented at the Applied Stylistics Symposium, Aston University, UK (online), 6-7 May 2021.
  • 'Responding to the Covid-19 Crisis: Towards Greater Inclusion and Representation in Literature?' Paper presented at the Conference Pandemic Perspectives 2021: Reflections on the Post-Covid World (online), 20 April 2021.
  • 'An APPRAISAL Analysis of Online Reading Responses to Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending'. Paper presented at the Conference Digital Practices: Reading, Writing and Evaluation on the Web, University of Basel, Switzerland (online), 23-25 November 2020.
  • 'On Re-Presentations and Emotions: A Study of Metaphorical and Physiognomic Expressions in Sylvia Plath's "Elm"'. Paper presented at Memory, Affects and Emotions: International Interdisciplinary Conference, University of Gdańsk, Poland (online), 10-11 August 2020.
  • 'Literary Authenticity and Guided Interpretations in Julian Barnes's Fiction'. Paper presented at the 2nd International Interdisciplinary Conference: Freedom and Authenticity. University of Gdańsk, Poland (online). 8-10 July 2020.
  • 'What Does Make it Feel Cerebral? Investigating Readers' Responses to Literature Using Corpus-Based Techniques'. Poster presented at the University of Georgia Postgraduate Linguistics Conference, Athens, USA (in person), 4 December 2019.
In-house talks
  • 'A Few Words About My PhD: A Qualitative Study of the Reception of the Literary Arts and its Implications for Public Funding for Writing in the Midlands and Beyond'. Open mic presented at Birmingham City University PGR Studio Inside//Out PhD Festival (online), 27 January 2021.
Invited talks
  • 'Sea, Sex & Stylistics in D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers and Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending'. Paper presented at the Literature, Place and Space Conference, Birmingham City University (online), 2 November 2021.
  • 'Ideas as Research'. Short lecture given for students of the Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice, Birmingham City University, 13 October 2021.
  • 'Jonathan Coe's Middle England: Paratexts, Interpretations, Receptions'. Paper given at an English Research Seminar, Birmingham City University (online), 16 June 2021.

Public Engagement & Impact

Scholarly Activity

  • Current: Sept. 2020 - present: Audited modules: 'Creative Non-Fiction' at Birmingham City University, autumn semester 2021 (in person); 'Reading Into Writing' at Birmingham City University, spring semester 2021 (online); 'Qualitative Research Writing Workshop' at the University of Georgia, autumn semester 2020 (online). 
  • Current: Nov. 2020 - present : Postgraduate Representative to the Institute of English Studies (IES) Advisory Council. 
  • April 2022: Postgraduate Peer-reviewer for the edited collection Colourful Concepts From a Linguistic Point of View (book proposal to John Benjamins Publishing Company). 
  • 22 October 2021: Panel Chair, IALS 2021. Vilnius University, Lithuania. (Online).
  • May 2021: Postgraduate Peer-reviewer for Makings Journal.
  • 21 September 2021. Guest Speaker at the panel 'Beginning Your Doctoral Studies' targeted at incoming PhD students. Midlands4Cities Induction 2021. Fazeley Studios, Birmingham. 
  • 23rd April 2021: Conference ChairBirmingham English Language Postgraduate Virtual Conference. University of Birmingham. (Online). Roundtable: 'Progressing Research During Covid' with panellists Ashley Blake, Nouf Alharbi, and Bingjun Zhang.
  • Dec. 2020 - Jan. 2021: ELIT Training School Attendee. Theme: Literary Theory and Text Analysis.
  • Aug. 2020 - Aug. 2021: Peer-review Editor for the Journal of Languages, Texts & Society (LTS), Issues 4 & 5, University of Nottingham.
  • 11th Aug. 2020: Panel Chair, session V. Memory, Affects and Emotions: International Interdisciplinary Conference. University of Gdańsk, Poland. (Online).
  • 8th and 9th of July 2019: PALA Summer School Attendee. Theme: Text-World Theory.
Literature & Literary Translation

  • Oct. 2019 - March 2020: Student Judge for the Jean Moulin University Lyon 3 Caméléon Literary Translation Prize. The 2019-20 edition rewarded the best literary translation from contemporary Irish literature into French.
  • Oct. 2018 - March 2019: Student Judge for the Jean Moulin University Lyon 3 Caméléon Literary Translation Prize. The 2018-19 edition rewarded the best literary translation from contemporary Polish literature into French. 
  • May 2018: Session Moderator at the 'Assises Internationales du Roman', Lyon's major literary festival facilitated by The Villa Gillet.

Other Research Interests

  • Discourse Analysis
  • Systemic Functional Linguistics
  • Reader-response
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Contemporary literary culture
  • Creative industries 
  • Cultural policy
  • Social media 

Memberships

Qualifications

  • Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice in English, January 2021. Birmingham City University. Distinction.
  • MRes English Linguistics, Literature & History of Ideas, July 2020. Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 (& The University of Georgia). High Distinction.
  • BA English Linguistics, Literature & Culture, July 2017. Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 (& The University of Liverpool). First-class Honours.

Relevant Employment

Teaching
  • December 2021 - January 2022: PhD Tutor in English as part of The Brilliant Tutoring Programme. (Part-time fixed-term contract).
  • April 2021 - July 2021: PhD Tutor in English as part of The Brilliant Tutoring Programme. (Part-time fixed-term contract).
  • April 2019 - July 2019: Early Years Teaching Assistant at Dailloux Kindergarten. (Part-time fixed-term contract). 
  • Sept. 2018 - June 2019: Lecturer - English as a Foreign Language at Amos Sport Business School, Lyon, France. I designed and taught the following undergraduate modules: 'English for Academic Purposes' (EAP) and 'The Discourse of Sports Marketing'. (Part-time fixed-term contract).
  • Oct. 2017 - June 2018: Teaching Assistant - French as a Foreign Language at Sir Thomas Rich's School, Gloucester, UK. (Part-time fixed-term contract).
Education
  • Sept. 2018 - June 2019: Prison Education Coordinator at Genepi Lyon (voluntary work). I had a lead role in designing the courses 'Literacy through Creative Writing' and 'An Introduction to French Children's Literature', which were due to be implemented in 2020 in one youth detention centre based in Lyon (l'Etablissement Pénitentiaire pour Mineurs de Meyzieu). Their implementation has been delayed due to Covid-19.
  • Oct. 2017 - June 2018: After-School Club Assistant at Leckhampton Church of England Primary School with Child's Play Club UK. (Part-time fixed-term contract).

Awards & Funding

  • March 2021: PGR Studio's Researcher Development Award, Birmingham City University (with Pierre d'Alancaisez et Vincent Obia). Project: "Thinking, researching, and being online". Budget: £600 to organise a series of three workshops.
  • Sept. 2020 - August 2024: Collaborative Doctoral Award, Birmingham City University & Writing West Midlands. Fully funded (fees and stipend) by Midlands 4 Cities, Arts and Humanities Research Council. 
  • July 2019 - December 2019: Visiting student at The University of Georgia (USA). Fully funded (fees and stipend) by the Aide à la Mobilité Internationale (AMI), Explora' Sup and the Crous. 
  • Sept. 2016 - June 2017: Exchange student at The University of Liverpool (UK). Fully funded (fees and stipend) by Erasmus +, Explora'Sup and the Crous.
  • July 2010: Merit Award for exceptional Brevet results (GCSE equivalent). 1,000€ per high-school year, funded by the Ministry of National Education.