M4C Logo AHRC Logo

Ruth Walbank

Languages and Literature, University of Warwick

Thesis title:

Hellscapes of Environmental Crisis: Hellish Landscapes in the Nineteenth-Century Popular Imagination

This study establishes the “hellscape” as a new term for reading Hell-like spaces in the long nineteenth century, the period often associated with Hell’s theological demise (Turner, 1993; 232). In three representative case studies, I analyse how Victorian writers used hellscapes to express their darkest fears in socio-ecological crises, creating a shared language that bridged numerous British dialects and regions. 

This study navigates Victorian hellscapes from crowed London to rural moorlands in texts such as Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847), James Thomson’s The City of Dreadful Night (1874) and Gustave Doré and Blanchard Jerrold’s London: A Pilgrimage (1872). Furthermore, it seeks to explore dialect poetry from Lancashire’s Chartist movement (c.1830-1850) and Cotton Famine (1861-1865), demonstrating how working-class writers used the hellscape to picture Northern England as requiring social reform and environmental protection.

Research Area

  • English Language and Literature
  • Languages and Literature

Publications

Articles


Reviews & conference reports 

  • Conference report: The Catholic University, Environmental Justice, and Research for a Sustainable Future (16-18th June 2022), The Pastoral Review 18:4 (September 2021)

Other publications 

Conferences

The Subterranean Anthropocene: BSLS Winter Symposium, November 2022
Speaker for a paper entitled 'Exploring damnable ecologies and subterranean hellscapes in the graphic novel, Satania'.

Gothic Interruptions: The 16th International Gothic Association Conference, July 2022
Speaker for a paper entitled 'Gothic Tonalities and Tourism: Experiencing Emily Brontë's poetry through The Unthanks' Lines'.

Faith, Education, and the Ecological Crisis: An Online Symposium, July 2022
Conference organiser 

CCU Inaugural Conference: Environmental Justice and Research for a Sustainable Future, June 2022
Speaker for a paper entitled 'Educating and Empowering Laudato Si' Champions in the Diocese of Salford'.

AULRE Annual Conference, May 2022
Speaker for a paper entitled 'Educating and Empowering Laudato Si' Champions in the Diocese of Salford'.

Beyond Six Characteristics: EDI for the Modern University Virtual Conference, September 2021 
Conference organiser and speaker for paper 'Finding Amy Levy's Feminist Cities and Urban New Womanhood'.

Romantic Disconnections/Reconnection: British Association for Romantic Studies International Digital Conference, August 2021
Speaker for a paper entitled '"The Devil knows how to row": Hellscapes and how to navigate them in Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'.

Engender Interdisciplinary Conference, August 2021 
Speaker for a paper entitled 'Finding Amy Levy's Feminist Cities and Urban New Womanhood'

New Thinking for New Times Conference, June 2021 
Conference organiser and speaker for a paper entitled 'Nineteenth Century Hellscapes in James Thomson's "City of Dreadful Night"'

Comics Up Close Conference, October 2019
Speaker for a creative-critical paper, 'The Death of the New Woman: A Dracula Adaptation'.

Gothic Spectacle Conference at Lancaster University, June 2019 
Speaker for a creative-critical paper, 'The Death of the New Woman: A Dracula Adaptation', reported in Fantastika journal 4:1.

Public Engagement & Impact

Romancing the Gothic (Public lectures)

As part of Dr Sam Hurst's Romancing the Gothic project, I was commissioned to deliver two free public lectures. These recordings form part of RTG's amazing collection of guest lectures and free online events, including:

 

Write your Future with The Literary Lancashire Award (Workshop series)

The Literary Lancashire Award (LLA) offered free creative writing workshops to schools between 2019-2021 as part of the community award. However, COVID-19 meant we were unable to offer the in-person community outreach program with LLA. So, with my fellow co-founder, Lara Orriss, we created an online workshop series freely available for schools to run the workshops independently.

"There are lots of excellent ideas in here that are original and explained in a really clear way. I can see that it will be useful as we review our narrative and descriptive writing within our curriculum. I think the way the activities and worksheets are presented is great, and I look forward to using them with pupils!" (Feedback from high school English teacher)


Diversity in Publishing: From Book to Buyer (Panel Discussion)

In partnership with LLA and the Department of English Literature and Creative Writing at Lancaster University, I organised and hosted a panel discussion about diversity in the publishing sector. The discussion included Lecturer in publishing, Cat Mitchell, co-chair of SYP Scotland, Sonali Misra, and creative partner at The Dukes Theatre, Jayran Lear, among others.

Other Research Interests

  • Nineteenth-century women's writing
  • Feminist geographies
  • Gothic theologies and monstrosities
  • Romantic literature
  • Literature and visual art