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Niamh Lawlor

Languages and Literature, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

Creative responses to pre-historic monuments in early twentieth century literature: 1900-1950

My thesis explores both fiction and non-fiction interpretations of, and discussions about, the value of British and Irish Pre-Historic monuments in the early twentieth century. My research prioritises an examination of physical pre-historic sites and aims to establish how these monuments were interacted with and interpreted by the local communities living around, or indeed within, pre-historic structures during the twentieth century. I will select a range case studies which encompass megalithic monuments, holy wells, chalk figures, ancient earthworks and trackways and explore how these sites have been creatively interpreted through a variety of mediums including folkloric tales, folk song, fiction, anthropological theory and creative archaeology. By prioritising an examination of the site and the responses of the communities who surround them, my work aims to highlight how local history can act as an underestimated starting point for approaching literary representations of landscape and place. 


I am particularly interested in the literary representations of pre-historic sites by a number of twentieth century writers including: Edith Olivier, John Cowper Powys and Liam O’Flaherty as they are figures who moved between the avant-garde, modernist artistic circles of the early twentieth century and distinctly local communities. My work aims to explore how these writers act as mediators between these two distinct worlds and the implications of this when considered alongside critical discussions about literary modernism. 

Research Area

  • English Language and Literature
  • Languages and Literature

Other Research Interests

I am particularly interrested in local history/ folklore and how this can act as an unerestimated starting point from which to consider literary represetations of monuments, landscapes and communities. I am also interested in both modernist and mainstream early 20th Cenutry writing and the ways in which writers explore debates surrouning religion and spiritualism in an increasingly religiously plural society.