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Professor Elizabeth Barry

Barry main


Email: e dot c dot barry at warwick dot ac dot uk

Room 5.56
Faculty of Arts (FAB) Building
University Road
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL


Professor Liz Barry is Professor of Modern Literature, and teaches on the English and Comparative Literary Studies programme.

Research interests

Research interests include medical humanities, especially in relation to ageing and end of life, psychology and psychopathology. I have written a lot about Samuel Beckett in relation to these areas and others, and have also published on modern British and European modernism, recent British theatre, and on the cultural history of celebrity.

Most of my recent publications are in the field of literary age studies. I edited the 2020 volume of the English Association Essays and Studies series, Literature and Ageing (Boydell and Brewer) with Professor Margery Vibe Skagen (U of Bergen). I have also written on ageing in the Cambridge Companion to the Body in Literature, Textual Practice, Poetics Today, European Journal of English Studies, and Samuel Beckett Today/ Aujourd'hui, as well as several edited collections and companions. In earlier days, I wrote a monograph on Samuel Beckett and the uses of cliché, and published articles and book chapters on Beckett in relation to translation, psychoanalysis, mental disorder, and medicine.

I have held two Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grants investigating medicine and modernism, and edited special issues of Journal of Beckett Studies (Beckett, Language and the Mind), International Journal of Cultural Studies (cultural history of celebrity) and (with Ulrika Maude and Laura Salisbury) Journal of Medical Humanities. I sit on the editorial board for the age studies journal Age Culture Humanities: I am also Vice-President (President incumbent) of the international Samuel Beckett Society.

I have two book projects on the go: a monograph under contract with Bloomsbury (out 2025) on ageing in modern literature and thought, and a planned textbook on literature and the lifecourse. I am also starting a new research project on laughter in communication, culture and health.

I currently hold a grant from the Research Council of Norway (SAMKUL) as part of my work as an international partner on the project Historicizing the Ageing Self, run by Professor Margery Vibe Skagen and based at the University of Bergen, Norway. I have also been involved with the Social Acoustics project at Bergen, run by Professor Jill Halstead and Professor Brandon LaBelle, giving a plenary talk on dementia, language, attunement and laughter at their closing exhibition in August 2022. I am on the Age, Care and the Caring Crisis Working Group (based at the Birkbeck Institute of Social Research), seeking to improve and inform policy on ageing and social and healthcare in the teeth of the current social and political crisis in these areas. I am also deputy Lead for Arts and Social Sciences for the new Midlands Mental Health and Neuroscience doctoral training programme.

A very short talk giving a flavour of my new work on dementia and laughter can be found here: Rethinking dementia: Dementia, time and laughter

I also made a video for the Faculty of Arts at Home series during lockdown, reflecting on what Samuel Beckett might offer to us in thinking about older age (and lockdown) in the age of Covid: Film 10: Beckett and the Age of Covid - YouTube

Teaching and supervision

Research supervision: I would welcome research projects in the fields of medical humanities, modern theatre, Samuel Beckett, and on literature (particularly modern literature) and ageing, psychology, psychiatry, neurology and/or neuroscience.

I have currently have three PhD students:

  • Beth Greaves, a recipient of the Wolfson Scholarship to work on the history and representation of Munchausen By Proxy syndrome in contemporary fiction.
  • Yaqian Xu, recipient of a China Scholarship Council award to work on the ageing body in contemporary North American fiction and society.
  • Heather Wardlaw (co-supervised with Dr Emma Francis) on the representation of nursing and home care in nineteenth-century fiction.

I have supervised the following PhD projects:

  • Rina Kim (Women and Ireland as Beckett's Lost Others) -- completed March 2007; published as a monograph with Palgrave Macmillan
  • Madolyn Nichols (Emigration in Irish Women's Writing 1900-1940) -- completed March 2014
  • Catherine Charlwood, Fulbright Scholar and recipient of AHRC PhD funding (Cognitive and Cultural Memory in the Poetry of Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost) -- completed January 2017
  • Robert Starr (Irish Soldier-Writers of the First World War) -- completed September 2017; published as a monograph (Irish Literary Responses to the Great War) with Ibidem-Verlag (2020).
  • Madeleine Scherer, recipient of full PhD funding from the German National Academic Foundation (The Uses of the Classical Underworld in Postcolonial Literature) -- completed December 2018; under contract as a monograph with De Gruyter.
  • Freya Verlander, recipient of a Centre of Arts Doctoral Research Excellence Scholarship (fees and maintenance at UKRI rate) ((Skin)Aesthetics: A Study of Skin(s) in Spectatorship) -- completed March 2020; under contract as a monograph with Bloomsbury Drama.

MA teaching: I set up and convened the MA module Outcast Ireland: Institutions and the Making of Irish Society 1801-2000 (not currently running) with Professor Maria Luddy from the Department of History.

I set up, convene and teach an interdisciplinary Masters-level module on The Medical Mind in Literature and Culture, through Warwick's Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL), also delivered as a MBChB student-selected module for the Warwick Medical School.

I set up, convene and teach an MA module, Literature and the Life Course: From Infancy to Old Age

I also teach on the Drama and Performance Theory module on the MA in English and Drama.

Undergraduate teaching: I have convened the first year module British Theatre since 1939, and currently convene my Honours core theory module Literature, Theory and Time and Sick Imagination: Illness, Disability and the Critical Medical Humanities. I also teach and lecture on the module European Theatre, and lecture on Modern World Literatures.

Selected publications

  • Beckett and Authority: The Uses of Cliché (Palgrave Macmillan: 2006)
  • Ed., The Cultural History of Celebrity, special issue of International Journal of Cultural Studies, October 2008
  • Ed., Beckett, Language and the Mind, special issue of Journal of Beckett Studies, Dec 2008
  • 'The ageing body', The Cambridge Companion to the Body in Literature, November 2015
  • Ed., Beckett, Medicine and the Brain, special issue of Journal of Medical Humanities, March 2016
  • 'Putting It Down to Experience: Ageing and the Subject in Sartre, Munro and Coetzee', European Journal of English Studies, February 2018
  • 'The Moment of Truth: Proust, Barthes and the Contingency of Old Age', Textual Practice, March 2018
  • Literature and Ageing, the 2020 Essays and Studies volume for the English Association
  • 'Dementia, Language and Performative Force: The Case of Laughter', Poetics Today, March 2023.
  • 'The Phenomenology of Frailty', The Bloomsbury Handbook to Ageing in Contemporary Literature and Film, edited by Sarah Falcus, Heike Hartung and Raquel Medina (2023)

Professional service

External programme examiner for post-1900 English programme, University of Nottingham, and the MSc in Medical Humanities, Kings College, London.

Expert Panel for Grant Reviewing for the Wellcome Trust

Peer reviewer for Wellcome Trust, Arts and Humanities Research Council, National Universities of Ireland (NUI); Oxford University Press, Routledge, Palgrave Macmillan; Journal of Beckett Studies, French Studies, Contemporary Theatre Review, Performing Ethos.

External PhD examiner at Andra University, India (2006), University of Dundee (2013), University of Ulster (2015), McGill University, Canada (2015), University of Reading (2016), Birkbeck College, University of London (2019), University of Sheffield (2022).

Member of the Working Group 'Age, Care and the Caring Crisis' (Birkbeck Institute for Social Research)