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Professor Abbie Garrington

Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature

MA (Hons) PhD FRGS

Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature in the Department of English Studies+44 (0) 191 33 46589
Fellow of the Institute for Medical Humanities


About Me

Office hours: Friday 10-11am (via Zoom) and by appointment.

My research interests lie primarily in the modernist period, with particular expertise in literature's rendering of tactile experience and wider cultures of touch in the early twentieth century, and in modernist writing's engagement with mountain landscapes and the figure of the mountaineer up to and including the Second World War. Broadly, I investigate language's capacities and limitations when addressing the adventures of the human body.

I completed my studies at the University of Edinburgh, with a short break pre-PhD, working full time as a journalist. I was granted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (Edinburgh), and held a permanent lectureship in modernist literature at Newcastle University (including a Leverhulme Research Fellowship) before joining Durham in early 2015. Here, I am an Associate Director of the DurhamARCTIC research centre, and a Fellow of the Institute for Medical Humanities.

Administrative Roles

Director of Research, Department of English Studies

Associate Director, DurhamARCTIC (funded Leverhulme Trust)

Department Research Committee (Chair)

Department Management Committee (Member)

Department Progression Committee (Member)

University REF Advisory Group (Member)

Current Research

My current research is split into two areas of investigation in the modernist period: various forms of mountain writing, and somatic, sensory, and gestural experience in literary contexts. High Modernism: A Literary History of Mountaineering, 1890-1945 was granted a Leverhulme Research Fellowship for 2013-2014, facilitating archival research around the UK. I then developed the book as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh. A related podcast, 'Mountains' (recorded as part of the BBC Proms 2018), is available here. I chose not to publish my PhD thesis (on geometrical space in modernist art and literature). My first monograph, written as a postdoctoral fellow, was Haptic Modernism: Touch and the Tactile in Modernist Writing (EUP 2013; 2015). I extend this area of work in a monograph provisionally entitled The Modernist Fidget: Gesture, Attention, and Agency in the Early Twentieth Century.

Doctoral Supervision & Postdoctoral Mentorship

I would be pleased to hear from potential PhD students proposing to work in the modernist period (c.1890-1945), or on modernist-influenced mid-century and contemporary literature. Projects tackling the body, the senses, or mountain- and polar-related writing are particularly welcome. I mentor colleagues holding Leverhulme Early Career Fellowships, most recently Dr Noreen Masud, and soon Dr Anna Saroldi.

Current PhD Students:

Ms Francesca Adams, 'Cultivating Fiction: Agricultural Life and the Form of the Novel in Thomas Hardy and George Eliot' (Co-supervisor: Prof. Peter Garratt)

Mr Gao Dazheng, 'Of Transparent Things Impenetrable: Quotidian Objects and Narrative Phenomenology in Modernist Fiction' (Co-supervisors: Prof. John Nash; Prof. James Smith) (Funded China Scholarships Council)

Ms Isobel Defty, 'Truthful Pastorals? Escapes to the Country in Women's Inter-war Writing' (Second supervisor: Dr Laura McCormick Kilbride)

Ms Catherine Dent, 'Meat and the Medicalisation of Diet in Modernist Fiction' (Second supervisor: Dr Fraser Riddell) (Funded AHRC Northern Bridge Consortium)

Recently Completed PhD Students:

Dr Ryan McNab, 'Selfhood, Rurality, and the Sensorial Body in the Age of British Modernism, 1910-1945' (Second supervisor: Prof. John Nash) (Funded AHRC Northern Bridge Consortium)

Dr Bryony Armstrong, 'The Kiss in Modernist Literature' (Second supervisors: Dr Marco Bernini; Prof. John Nash) (Funded AHRC Northern Bridge Consortium) (Durham University Student Achievement Award 2020)

Dr Christian Drury, '"Semi-Professional Polar Explorers": Empire, Modernity, and Temporality in British Arctic Travel Narratives, 1875-1940' (Co-supervisor: Dr James Koranyi (History)) (Funded DurhamARCTIC/Leverhulme Trust)

Esteem Indicators

Member of Advisory Council, Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Spring 2017-Autumn 2023. Details:

External Examiner, Undergraduate English Literature programme, University of Edinburgh, 2016-2021

Partnerships and Engagement Travel Fund, Durham University, 'Mountain Heritage Trust/Keswick Museum,' 2019

University Impact Development Funding, Durham University, 'The Lost Tent: The Bentley Beetham Collections,' 2019

University Research Impact Funding, Durham University, 'Scaling the Heights,' 2017-2018

Faculty Research Funding, Durham University, 'Scaling the Heights,' Spring 2017

Faculty Research Funding, Durham University, 'Reading Habits of the Modernist Mountaineer: The Fell and Rock Climbing Club Library at the Armitt Museum, Ambleside,' July 2015

AHRC Care for the Future (ECR) Developmental Award, 'The Hero Project,' 2015-2016 (Principal Investigator)

Visiting Research Fellowship, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, with special attachment to the Mountaineering & Polar Collections, National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh), 2014-2015

Leverhulme Research Fellowship, High Modernism: A Literary History of Mountaineering, 1890-1945, 2013-2014

Faculty Research Fund Award, Newcastle University, 'Modernist Mountaineers: UK Archival Holdings,' 2012-2013

Prize for Mountain Writing, Mountaineering Council of Scotland/Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival, 2011 (2nd prize)

Postdoctoral Fellowship, 'Touching Texts,' Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh

AHRC Doctoral Award, University of Edinburgh

Impact & Public Engagement

I led an Impact Case Study for REF2021, including elements of the following activities:

'Scaling the Heights': A collaboration with the artist Stephen Livingstone, this exhibition opened at the Oriental Museum (Durham) in 2018, then toured to Keswick Museum until February 2020. Supported Arts Council England, Durham University Research Impact Fund, Impact Development Fund, A&H Faculty Research Fund. Find us on Instagram.

'The Hero Project': With colleagues at Birmingham and Aberdeen universities, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), and the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS), I was awarded AHRC funding via the Care for the Future Developmental Award route. We considered, through a variety of activities, the historical contingency of the identification of hero figures, and the role of the hero in forming national and/or community identity. Our online exhibition 'No Heroes Any More?' used the collections of the NGS, was co-curated with young people aged 16-18. I was the project's Principal Investigator.

'Savage Arena: The Legacy of Joe Tasker': I co-curated, with the Mountain Heritage Trust and Ushaw College (Durham), an exhibition regarding the mountaineering and mountain writing achievements of Tasker. It appeared at Ushaw College, Keswick Museum, and (in an expanded version) at Preston Park Museum. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Public Writing & Broadcasts

'Every Little Touch,' BBC Radio 4, 11 October 2020. Contributor. Invited.

'Proms Plus: Mountains,' BBC Radio 3, 30 July 2018. Co-speaker. Invited.

Garrington, Abbie (2018). 'Scaling the Heights.' Exhibition catalogue essay.

Garrington, Abbie (2016). 'Savage Arena: The Legacy of Joe Tasker.' Exhibition catalogue essay.

Garrington, Abbie (2014). 'The Beauty of Effort: The Mountain Art of Susan Dobson.' Exhibition catalogue essay.

Recent & Forthcoming Presentations

'Interdisciplinarity in Arctic Higher Education: The DurhamARCTIC Experience,' panel session, Arctic Congress, Bodø, Norwegian Sápmi, 1 June 2024.

'Still Lives? Fidgety Affects in the Modernist Years,' Rhythm and the Body Colloquium, Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University, 13 May 2024. Invited.

'Thinking Like a Mountain,' seminar with Prof. Helen Mort and Dr Kerri Andrews, Manchester Metropolitan University Centre for Place Writing, 1 June 2023. Invited.

'Meeting Mountains,' co-presentation with Dr Carla Benzan, Mountains in the Humanities Conference (Leverhulme Trust), University of St Andrews, 8-10 December 2022. Invited.

'Mountains and the Modernist Pictorial Press,' Mountains and Literature Conference for International Mountain Day, Universita della Valle d'Aosta, 13 December 2021. Keynote address. Invited.

'Feeling Fidgety: New Gestural Perspectives on Modernist Writing,' Fragments of Touch Conference, University of Montreal, 26 March 2021. Keynote address. Invited. [Online presentation.]

'Hardy’s Hedges,' London Nineteenth-Century Studies Seminar, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 3 December 2020. Invited. [Online presentation.]

'Charlie Chaplin and the Fidgeting Film,' Peterhouse Theory Group, University of Cambridge, 3 March 2020. Invited.

'Touch and the New Nature Writing,' Space, Place and Sensory Perception seminar, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, 3 February 2020. Invited.

'What Is It to Fidget?,' BBC/Wellcome Trust Workshop, London, 5 September 2019. Invited.

'Clock Time, Clerk Time, Mountain Time: Modernist Workers Access the Alps,' Modernist Studies in Asia Network Annual Conference, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, 12-14 September 2019.

'Modern Times, Modern Fidgets,' The Long 1930s Roundtable, University of Hamburg, 9 July 2019. Invited.

'Black, White, and Read All Over: Mines and Mountains in the Modernist Press,' Centre for Modern Studies, University of York, 1 May 2019. Invited.

'Aerial Graham,' (co-written with Prof. David Trotter), Centenary Seminar for W. S. Graham, University of Cambridge, 11 January 2019. Invited.


ENGL46230 'Writing the Body in the Long Twentieth Century' - MA Optional Module - Seminar Co-Leader

ENGL43530 'Modernism and Touch' - MA Optional Module - Seminar Leader [Not currently available]

ENGL43330 'Reading as a Writer' - MA Optional Module - Lecturer

ENGL3891 'Life Write Now: Reading Contemporary Autofiction' - UG Special Topic Module - Seminar Leader [New for 2024-25]

ENGL3241 'Writing Mountains in the Early Twentieth Century' - UG Special Topic Module - Seminar Leader [Not currently available]

ENGL2081 'Literature of the Modern Period' - UG Module - Lecturer; Tutor

ENGL2071 'Victorian Literature' - UG module - Lecturer

ENGL1071 'Introduction to Poetry' - UG module - Lecturer

UG Dissertation; MA Dissertation - Supervisor

Research interests

  • Late Victorian, modernist, mid-century, and contemporary writing
  • The body and the senses
  • Touch/the haptic; gesture; histories of the human hand
  • Attention; distraction; habit; rhythm; repetition
  • Mountain writing; polar cultures; expeditionary history


Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Supervision students