photo of Helen Tyson

Dr Helen Tyson

Post:Lecturer in 20th and 21st Century British Literature (English)
Location:ARTS B B241
Email:H.Tyson@sussex.ac.uk

Telephone numbers
Internal:7647
UK:01273 877647
International:+44 1273 877647

Research expertise:
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Biography

Biography: 

I am a Lecturer in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century British Literature, as well as co-Director, alongside Hope Wolf, of the Centre for Modernist Studies.

My research explores the intersections between modernism, psychoanalysis and popular culture at the beginning of the twentieth century. I am currently writing a book called Reading Modernism’s Readers: Modernism, Psychoanalysis, and the Bestseller. Beginning in the early-twentieth century, this book tracks the figure of the reader in modernism, popular culture, literary criticism and psychoanalysis through to the early 1940s. I am also working on a project exploring modernism and childhood.

I teach a number of undergraduate modules, including the first-year modules Thinking Literature and Acts of Writing, the second-year module Modernism and Childhood, and the third-year modules Virginia Woolf and British Writing: 1945-1970.

I did my undergraduate degree in English at the University of Oxford, before going to Queen Mary University of London to do my MA and my PhD. I also taught at Queen Mary University of London before coming to Sussex in 2016.

I welcome PhD proposals on: modernism; Virginia Woolf; Marcel Proust; Sigmund Freud; Melanie Klein; British psychoanalysis; psychoanalysis and literature; modernism and psychoanalysis; popular culture in the early twentieth century; twentieth-century romance fiction; theories and histories of reading; modernism and childhood; literature and childhood.

Research 

I am currently writing a monograph called Reading Modernism’s Readers: Modernism, Psychoanalysis, and the Bestseller. Beginning in the early-twentieth century, this book tracks the figure of the reader in modernism, popular culture, literary criticism and psychoanalysis through to the early 1940s. Focussing on portraits of reading in the writings of Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, and the ‘queen’ (as Rebecca West described her) of early bestsellers, Ethel M. Dell, it also explores the readers figured in the psychoanalytic writings of Sigmund Freud, James Strachey, Melanie Klein, and Marion Milner. It is one of the central contentions of this book that the scene of reading—a staged, fictionalized encounter with literary texts—is at the heart of modernist writing. Reading the reader in modernism, and in the bestselling romance novel, via the insights of psychoanalysis, is, I propose, the sharpest riposte to the entrenched dichotomies of existing debates about modernism.

At the heart of modernist culture, I argue, lies a fascination with, and an anxiety about, both the pleasures and the potential perils of the act of reading in an age dominated by the psycho-politics of mass culture and the fungal growth of fascism. The modernist portrait of reading reveals, I argue, some of our most powerful and enduring fantasies about the role of literature in psychic, social and political life. Reading Modernism’s Readers aims, therefore, not only to intervene in debates about modernism, but also to address increasingly urgent questions about how—and why—we read today, in a period dominated once again by the rise of far-right politics. Engaging with recent arguments for a form of ‘post-critique’, I consider what kind of reading is adequate, necessary even, in the so-called ‘post-truth’ world of Brexit, Trump, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’.

I have published an article about child readers in modernism and psychoanalysis in Textual Practice (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0950236X.2016.1237997) and I am co-editor of English Studies: The State of the Discipline, Past, Present, and Future (Palgrave, 2015). I am also currently editing, with Shaul Bar-Haim and Elizabeth Coles, a collection of essays titled Wilding Analysis: From the Couch to Cultural and Political Life.

I have published a number of reviews including: 

I recently participated in a Forum for Philosophy discussion on 'Biography', which is available to listen to as a podcast here: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/theforum/biography/