Dr Mari Hughes-Edwards

Reader in English Literature

Department of English, History & Creative Writing


I am currently Reader in English Literature at Edge Hill University, having taught at the universities of York, Manchester, Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores, and, most recently, at the University of Salford, where I lectured in Contemporary British Poetry.

I gained my BA in English Literature, my MA (with Distinction) from Bristol University, and was awarded my PhD by the University of York.

The main focus of my academic research/publications is on gender and sexuality. Originally a medievalist by training, my published work now focuses equally on contemporary British Literature and I have particular research interests in the poetic work of Carol Ann Duffy and Lee Harwood and in the fictions of Susan Hill, Hilary Mantel and Sarah Waters.

I was appointed to the Peer Review College for the Arts and Humanities Research Council in 2016 and am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  My books include a study of medieval anchoritic ideology from c.1080 to c.1500 (University of Wales Press, 2012) and the first full-length monograph on the complete poetic works of the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy (forthcoming for Manchester University Press), a project for which I was awarded a British Academy Grant. I have also written for the national press, including the Guardian and the Times Higher Education Supplement.  My media appearances include work for Channel 4 and I have hosted two television series: ‘About Books’ and ‘52%’ for Bay / Made TV.

At Edge Hill I supervise doctoral and master’s level work on gender, sexuality and women’s literature. I am also the chair of GenSex, Edge Hill University’s Gender and Sexuality Research Group. I was the programme leader for the former MA in Women’s Writing from 2006-9 and now lead modules on the MA in English. My undergraduate teaching is primarily focused on Contemporary English Literature and on the literature of the Middle Ages & Renaissance.

Research Interests

  • Contemporary British literature and culture, especially poetry.
  • Medieval/Renaissance literature and culture, especially anchoritism.
  • Critical & cultural theory, including gender, sexuality & feminisms.
  • Sexuality, same-sex desire, suffering, space.
  • Women’s writing and the development of female authorship.


Teaching AwardsI have taught the literatures of all periods from Anglo-Saxon to the present day. My specific research-led teaching specialisms include: critical and cultural theory (especially gender and feminist theory), sexuality, the body, enclosure, and space (particularly in domestic space in urban culture). At Edge Hill University I teach primarily medieval / Renaissance, and Contemporary Literature and was recently chosen, by our students, as the winner of one of the university’s teaching awards.


Reading Medieval AnchoritismMonographs

  • ‘Love, Lust, Loss’: The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy (Manchester: Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2020).
  • Reading Medieval Anchoritism: Ideology and Spiritual Practices (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2012).

Book Chapters

  • ‘’ “Better a prison than a madhouse!”: Incarceration and the Neo-Victorian Fictions of Sarah Waters’, in Sarah Waters and Contemporary Feminisms, ed. by Adele Jones and Claire O’Callaghan (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2016), pp. 133-151.
  • ‘The Role of the Anchoritic Guidance Writer: Goscelin of St. Bertin’ in Anchoritism in the Middle Ages: Texts and Traditions, ed. by Catherine Innes-Parker & Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2013), pp. 31-45.
  • ‘Anchoritism: the English Tradition’ in Anchoritic Traditions of Medieval Europe, ed. by Liz Herbert McAvoy (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2010), pp. 131-152.
  • Lee Harwood‘ “…love and other obsessions”: Lee Harwood and the Poetry of Desire’ in The Salt Companion to Lee Harwood, ed. by Robert Sheppard (Cambridge: Salt Publications, 2007), pp. 127-152
  • ‘ “The house … has cancer”: Representations of Domestic Space in the Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy’ in Our House: Representations of Domestic Space in Modern Culture, ed. by G. Smyth & J. Croft(Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, 2006), pp. 121-139.
  • ‘ “Wrapt as if to the third heaven’: Gender and Contemplative Experience in Late-Medieval Anchoritic Guidance Writing’ in Anchorites, Wombs and Tombs: Intersections of Gender and Enclosure in the Middle Ages, ed. by Liz Herbert McAvoy and Mari Hughes-Edwards (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2005), pp. 131-141.

Anchorites, Wombs and TombsEdited Collections

  • Liz Herbert McAvoy and Mari Hughes-Edwards, eds., Anchorites, Wombs and Tombs: Intersections of Gender and Enclosure in the Middle Ages, (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2005), pp. 226.

Journal Articles

  • ‘ “How good it is to be alone”? Sociability, Solitude & Medieval English Anchoritism’, Mystics Quarterly 35 (2009), 31-61.
  • ‘Hedgehog Skins and Hairshirts: The Changing Role of Asceticism in the Anchoritic Ideal’, Mystics Quarterly, 28 (2002), 6-26.

Book Reviews, General Writing & Writing for the Press


Selected Research Papers and Conference Presentations

  • (Oct 2016). Invited by Bloomsbury Press and Waterstones to introduce and interview Beryl Bainbridge’s private secretary and biographer, Brendan King, about his new biography of Bainbrige Love by All Sorts of Means.  Waterstones, Liverpool 1.
  • (June 2015).  ‘Medium Managed!: The Hidden Business of Spectrality in the Writing of Hilary Mantel and Caryl Churchill’ at Privileging the Unseen: A One Day Symposium on Hilary Mantel, Manchester Metropolitan University.
  • (March 2013). ‘Neo-Victorian Incarceration: The Fictions of Sarah Waters’ at The Prison and the Public Conference, Edge Hill University
  • (June 2012). Keynote Speaker at the eighth annual Medievalism Transformed conference, Bangor University, in conjunction with the Centre for Medieval Studies and the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Paper entitled: ‘Reading Women Within Walls: Constructing Medieval Anchoritism’.
  • (April 2012). Panel Organiser and Lead Speaker of panel entitled: ‘Global (Cyber)Sexualisation in the Twenty-First Century: New Answers, New Questions’, Onscenity Sexual Cultures Conference, Brunel University, London. Paper entitled: ‘ “Debbie got naked for a hat”: Sexualisation and the art of spinning sex secretly’.
  • (May 2009). ‘Too Lesbian for Laureate?: (Re)Reading the Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy, Edge Hill University Research Exchange Seminar Series.
  • (June 2009). ‘”marvellous creatures, transgender sailors, sex-changing fish”: Transgendered Transformation and the Taletelling of Sarah Waters and Cath Nichols’ (at ‘Feminist Transitions’: 22nd Feminist and Women’s Studies Association Conference, at the Bluecoat, Liverpool).
  • (September 2008). Paper at the 3rd conference for the International Anchoritic Society, Hiroshima Shudo University, Japan: ‘Mapping the Medieval Anchorhold: Dialogue between East & West’: ‘ “I wanted this to happen elsewhere … and in a different way”: The abandoned rulemaker and the heartless recluse. Betrayal and anchoritic guidance writing?’.
  • (June 2007). Paper at the Lesbian Lives XIV: Lesbian Existence and The Lesbian Continuum Conference, University College, Dublin, Thursday 14th – Sat 16th June 2007: ‘ “She … made him f**k her as a lad”: Queer Sexualities, Sexualised Violence and the work of Carol Ann Duffy’.
  • (September 2006). Speaker at one day conference at The Tate, Liverpool, entitled ‘Finding the House, Leaving the Home’: A series of Conversations Hosted by The Tate Liverpool. I spoke in Session 3 entitled: ‘Everybody has a story to tell, but there is only one story: doors opened and doors closed.’

Research Group Leadership & Selected Conference Organisation

  • (2007-ongoing). Chair of GenSex, the Gender & Sexuality Research Group, Edge Hill University: an interdisciplinary research group I established to provide academics & students from Edge Hill University and other Northern universities with a forum for intellectual exchange. I devise, publicise & chair its annual programme of papers, debates, seminars & workshops on topics including sexualities, masculinities, feminism(s), gender theory, LGB studies, queer studies, dissidence narratives, bodily/embodiment narratives & transgendered identities.
  • (September 2008). Chair at the 3rd conference for the International Anchoritic Society (I.A.S.), Hiroshima Shudo University, Japan: ‘Mapping the Medieval Anchorhold: Dialogue between East & West’.
  • (July 2005). Chair of session at British Academy funded international I.A.S. conference: ‘The Rhetoric(s) of the Anchorhold’, Gregynnog Conference Centre, University of Wales.
  • (July 2004). Organiser & moderator of session at Leeds International Medieval Congress entitled ‘Anchorites and Mystics: Models of Community’.
  • (July 2003). At Leeds International Medieval Congress: 1) Chair of debate, ‘Feminism & the Academy’. 2) Moderator of session entitled ‘Anchorites & Mystics II’.
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