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Ayesha Gaye

Research Postgraduate

Research Postgraduate in the Department of English Studies


My PhD research explores the representations of blackness and biracialism in British literature c. 1830-1880. It combines the writings of both Black and White writers of the Victorian era, including Mary Prince, Charles Dickens, Mary Seacole, and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning. In my thesis, I provide close readings of texts written by my chosen writers, examining the portrayals of Black or Biracial identity. I am particularly concerned with how perceptions of Black/Biracial identities contrasted both politically and socially in nineteenth-century Britain, and also, how Black society used their voices in writing to elevate their social positions in the face of racial prejudice. 

Prior to starting my PhD at Durham, I undertook my MA in English Literature at the University of Nottingham (2020-21). I completed my dissertation on the moral roles of the 'fallen women' in Elizabeth Gaskell's Ruth, Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and George Moore's Esther Waters. I completed my BA at the University of Derby (2017-20), where my undergraduate dissertation evaluated the Brontë sisters' successful contributions to feminist literature through the significance of the female characters within their novels.

My research is largely influenced by my mixed African and English heritage. I am half Gambian, and I have been fortunate to visit The Gambia many times. My interest in Black history was furthered when I visited the village of Jufureh, which is known for its appearance in Alex Haley's 1976 novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, as the birthplace of his ancestor, Kunta Kinteh. I also visited Kunta Kinteh Island (formally called James Island) and saw where the slaves were imprisoned. 

Outside of my research, I enjoy writing poetry and walking in the countryside.