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Heather Tilley

BA (Cambridge), MA, PhD (Birkbeck)
British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow

Contact details

tel: 020 3073 8409
email: h.tilley@bbk.ac.uk

Research

Following completion of my PhD here in 2009, I joined Birkbeck’s English and Humanities department as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in 2013 after working in curatorial roles in the gallery sector. My research interests are in the relationship between literature, art, the body and the senses in the Victorian period. I am particularly interested in the complex ways in which subjectivity is constructed through sensorial and embodied apprehension of literary and artistic texts.

My research has focused extensively on the history of visual disability. I have recently completed a manuscript titled Blindness and Writing: Wordsworth to Gissing, and have published several articles on the cultural and literary history of blindness. I have also curated two exhibitions at Birkbeck, ‘Touching the Book: Embossed Literature for Blind People in the Nineteenth Century’, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and ‘How We Read: A Sensory History of Books for Blind People’, as part of ‘Being Human: A Festival of the Humanities’, as well as a display at the National Portrait Gallery, ‘Facing Blindness: Visual Impairment in the Nineteenth Century’.

In July 2013 I organised an international, interdisciplinary conference on the theme of the Victorian Tactile Imagination. In November 2014 I edited a special issue based on this for 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century.

From November 2015, I will be taking up a role as a Career Development Fellow in the Medical Humanities at Birkbeck, funded by the Wellcome Trust. My new research project explores the cultural role of touch and the feeling body in nineteenth-century medical, scientific and psychological texts, literature and art in the nineteenth century, with a particular interest in the changing meanings of paralysis.

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