Dr Catherine Brown

BA (Cantab), MSc, MA (Lond), PhD (Cantab)
Head of Faculty & Senior Lecturer in English

Catherine is Head of Faculty and Senior Lecturer for the English BA at New College of the Humanities. She studied English at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. She moved out into academic and practical politics, lived in New York and Moscow and learned Russian and Spanish, before returning to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge for her PhD as an English-Russian comparatist. She has taught literature of the last two centuries at the universities of Cambridge, Greenwich, and most recently Oxford. She is the author of The Art of Comparison: How Novels and Critics Compare (Legenda, 2011) and is Vice-President of the DH Lawrence Society.

Books

  • Fictions of Torture (forthcoming 2014)
  • The Reception of George Eliot in Europe (forthcoming London and New York: Continuum 2014)
  • The Art of Comparison: How Novels and Critics Compare (Legenda Studies in Comparative Literature, 2011)

Articles

  • Literary Imagination, ‘Henry James and Ivan Turgenev: Cosmopolitanism and Croquet’, 2013; doi 10.1093/litimag/imt014.
  • Comparative Critical Studies, ‘What is “Comparative” Literature?’, Volume 10, No. 1, 2013, 67-91.
  • Journal of Modern Literature, ‘The Russian Soul Englished’, Volume 36, Number 1, Fall 2012, 132-149.
  • Literary Papers, ‘Paint, Pain, and Fiction: a Comparison of Beryl Bainbridge’s Master Georgie and Michael Frayn’s Headlong’, April 2012.
  • The Facts on File Companion to Shakespeare, ed. by Kenneth Womack and William Baker, 5 vols (New York: Facts on File, 2012), Part 2, one article each on Sonnets 88-93.
  • The George Eliot Review: ‘The Mill on the Floss in the Nineteen-Seventies’. No. 42, 2011, 70-76.
  • Comparative Literature: ‘The Unconscious Good Life in Women in Love and Anna Karenina’. Vol. 63: 1 (Winter 2011), 25-46.
  • Modern Language Review: ‘Scapegoating, Double-Plotting, and the Justice of Anna Karenina’. 106: 1 (January 2011), 179-94.
  • The George Eliot/George Henry Lewes Journal: ‘Why does Daniel Deronda’s Mother Live in Russia?’. 58-59 (September 2010), 26-42.
  • Footpath (a Russian journal of English literature) ‘Unreliable Narrators’ (April 2012). ‘Chapters: Why Authors Use Them and How To Read Them’, ‘A Note on Realism’. (April 2011). ‘War and Peace in Ian McEwan’s Atonement’, ‘A Note on Narrators’. (April 2010).
  • Essays in Criticism: ‘Daniel Deronda as Tragi-Comedy’, 59 (2009), 302-323.
  • The Victorian Literary Handbook (New York and London: Continuum, 2008), short article on ‘War’.

Selected reviews

  • The Journal of the D.H. Lawrence Society: Review of Stephen Ferretter’s The Glyph and the Gramophone: D.H. Lawrence’s Religion (London: Bloomsbury, 2013)
  • Translation and Literature: Review of Horae Amoris: The Collected Poems of Rosa Newmarch, ed. by John Holmes and Natasha Distiller (High Wycombe: Rivendale Press, 2010), No. 20: 3, 2011, 397-403.
  • The D.H. Lawrence Newsletter: Review of BBC4’s 2011 adaptation of Women in Love. No. 89, Spring/Summer 2011, 12-18.
  • Essays in Criticism: ‘Modernism in our Time’, 3,000 word review of Roger Griffin’s Fascism and Modernism (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). 60 (2010), 189-96

Media work

  •  ‘Pilgrimage without Shame: D.H. Lawrence in the Alps’, BBC2, Culture Show, November 2013.

Awards

  • Academic Podcaster of the Year, University of Oxford, 2012.

Selected papers

  • Snowdrops and the English Expatriate in Russia’, RATEL Conference, Minsk. September 2012.
  • D.H. Lawrence and the Alps’, D.H. Lawrence Society. January 2012.
  • What is “Comparative” Literature?’, King’s College London Comparative Literature Seminar. November 2011.
  • The Russian Soul Englished’, Oxford Institute of Continuing Education. May 2011.
  • The Russian Soul from Dostoevsky to Bloomsbury’, King’s College London Comparative Literature Seminar.
  • February 2011.
  • The Unconscious Good Life in Anna Karenina and Women in Love: or, Reception as Metempsychosis’, Reception Studies Seminar, Institute of English Studies, University of London. November 2010.
  • The Mill on the Floss on Screen’, The Mill on the Floss Conference, Institute of English Studies, University of London. November 2010.
  • Lectures on McEwan, Bainbridge, Barker, Barnes, Coe, Faulkes, Frayn, Lawrence, Tolstoy, Unsworth, at the British literature seminar for university Anglicists in Perm,  Russia. 2009-11.
  • The London Stage in 2010’, ‘D.H. Lawrence and Christianity’, Oxford Institute of Continuing Education. 2010 and 2009.
  • Why Does Daniel Deronda’s Mother Live in Russia?’, Oxford Victorian Studies Seminar. 2009.
  • Does D.H. Lawrence have a Sense of Humour?’, Cambridge University, 2009.
  • Torture and Translation in Kipling and Kafka’, Cambridge Twentieth Century Seminar. 2008.
  • Death in English Literature: Donne to the Present’, National Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China. 2007.
  • Sur- and Subterranean Imagery in Nineteenth Century Russian Travellers’ Accounts of London’, Urban Underworld Conference, Cambridge. 2006.

Affiliations

  • British Comparative Literature Association, D.H. Lawrence Society.

Academic service

  • Member of the editorial board of Journal of the DH Lawrence Society. 2013 onwards.
  • Reader’s reviewer for Papers on Language and Literature and Review of English Studies.
  • Member of the editorial board of Footpath (Russian journal of English literature). 2009 onwards.

Languages spoken

Native German, Russian, French, intermediate Spanish.

10 Minutes On...
Texts

Pat Barker's Regeneration follows the efforts of a First World War psychiatric doctor to uncover the triggers of his patients' trauma.

Regeneration follows the efforts of a First World War psychiatric doctor to uncover the triggers of his patients' trauma. This work induces in him a trauma which is a pale shadow of his patients'; whilst our reading of this novel induces in us a trauma which is a pale shadow of the doctor's. Is Barker, psychiatrist-like, forcing us to confront the cause of our historical unease about that war? Or does she want those of us who have no such unease to feel it for the first time? Either way, she is using a medium – art – which has limited efficacy in the novel itself, in comparison to the most advanced version of psychiatry available in 1916.

Dr Catherine Brown

Ian McEwan's Atonement is structured around a series of oppositions: war and peace, guilt and innocence, literature and medicine, imagination and fact.

Atonement is structured around a series of oppositions: war and peace, guilt and innocence, literature and medicine, imagination and fact. The novel seems to elevate fact above imagination by showing the disasters that the latter can lead to. The central villain of the piece is a fantasist-novelist. But the work as a whole takes the form of a novel which breathes imagination into historical fact, and in doing so undermines the binary distinctions on which the novel appears to turn.

Dr Catherine Brown

Beckett's thirty-five second play was sent on the back of a postcard to New York in 1969, where it was encorporated in an erotic revue.

Beckett's thirty-five second play was sent on the back of a postcard to New York in 1969, where it was encorporated in an erotic revue. It consists of a silence, a cry, an inhalation, a silence, an exhalation, a cry, and a silence. The cry is pre-recorded and on stage is only rubbish. This mini-lecture considers whether this play should be read as an allegory for life, how it can be produced, whether it should be filmed, whether it is minimalist in the same sense as white canvases are – and whether it is ultimately a joke on us: rubbish.

Dr Catherine Brown

Barnes's title is provocative; it announces that this is not in fact a history, but a novel.

Barnes's title is provocative; it announces that this is not in fact a history, but a novel. The novel (or short-story collection) questions the possibility of giving a straight account of history by asserting that history is always partial, and always a story. On the other hand, it clings closely to certain historical facts – notably the turning back home of a ship of Jewish German refugees by America in 1939. Ultimately, it is an anti-history in the service of history – it both respects facts, and urges us to be canny in responding to the stories which are told about them.

Dr Catherine Brown

A Week in December takes the pulse of London in 2007.

A Week in December takes the pulse of London in 2007. It describes a web of characters connected by economics, politics, coincidence, and lust, of whom only a minority are the kind of people who would read A Week in December. Those, however, are the characters of whom the novel most approves – especially those who would endorse its contention that the real villains of London life are not young, confused, misled Muslim fundamentalists, but psychopathic hedge-fund managers who degrade society by their greed.

Dr Catherine Brown

Snowdrops is a thriller set in Moscow in the early 2000s

Snowdrops is a thriller set in Moscow in the early 2000s. The protagonist – an English lawyer - is unwittingly involved in major financial and violent crime, having failed to understand that the thriller is not merely the filter through which he enjoys seeing the city, but is in fact the genre of the city's life. Yet even once he has understood this, he loves the woman who deceived him, and the city which gave him an intensity of experience to which England can never come close. The novel is a document of a time in which Moscow life imitated art, and English expats lived it with a combination of revulsion, and intoxicated attraction.

Dr Catherine Brown

Shakespeare's Sonnet 88 is the first of a mini-sequence in which the poet anticipates his friend's rejection and declares his intention in such a case to take the friend's side against himself.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 88 is the first of a mini-sequence in which the poet anticipates his friend's rejection and declares his intention in such a case to take the friend's side against himself. However in this Sonnet – as in the rest of the 154 – things are never as they first seem. A rereading reveals a Sonnet which makes a sly but brutal attack on his would-be critic and painfully-beloved friend.

Dr Catherine Brown
Topics

Narrators are almost all we have to go on – so how can we know when they are being unreliable? 

Narrators are almost all we have to go on – so how can we know when they are being unreliable? This mini-lecture looks at how narrators are undermined by contradictions and ommissions in their accounts (factual unreliability), by their incoherent or distasteful views (ethical unreliability), and by naivety (unreliability of sophistication). These varieties are explored particularly in relation to post-war English-language novels with narrators who are male, young, intelligent, arrogant, and dangerous.

Dr Catherine Brown

Chapters are deep in the structure of most prose works, doing much of the supporting and some of the embellishing – but they are rarely paid much attention. This mini-lecture considers what chapters do, how authors and readers use them, how they are named, how they are shaped, how they begin and end, and what we have to gain from paying them more careful attention.

Dr Catherine Brown

When we 'read' a book, a lecture, a situation, or a face, are we doing the same thing? How much do these activities have in common? 

When we 'read' a book, a lecture, a situation, or a face, are we doing the same thing? How much do these activities have in common? What do we mean when we say that someone has gone to university to 'read' English literature? This mini-lecture looks at the very various activities encompassed by the verb 'to read', and explores what it means to learn how to read.

Dr Catherine Brown

Other members of the English faculty

How to apply for 2015

You can apply directly to New College of the Humanities now, in addition to your five UCAS choices, to start your degree this September. Your first step is to complete and submit our application form online.

Our Admissions Advisers are happy to talk to you informally before you apply. This is not part of the selection process, so feel free to call +44 (0) 207 637 4550 for a chat or email info@NCHum.org with any questions.