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Dr Megan Girdwood

Assistant Professor in Modern Literature, 1870-1945

BA (Hons) MPhil (Cantab) PhD (York)

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Assistant Professor in Modern Literature, 1870-1945 in the Department of English Studies  


I joined Durham as Assistant Professor in Modern Literature, 1870-1945 in September 2021. My research focuses broadly on late nineteenth and twentieth-century literature, especially as it relates to modernism and the avant-garde. I am particularly interested in the way literary texts shape or have been shaped by modes of performance including dance, film and theatre, all of which produce complex relations between language, space, and the moving body. I also have a special interest in the literary and aesthetic movements of the fin de siècle and their links to so-called High Modernism. 

I completed my BA in English and MPhil in Modern & Contemporary Literature at the University of Cambridge, before moving to York to complete an AHRC-funded PhD in the department of English and Related Literature (2014-2018). Before joining Durham, I was an Early Career Teaching and Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, where I taught on a wide range of courses and designed a new final-year module 'Fin de Siècle into Modern.'

Current and Previous Research

My first book, Modernism and the Choreographic Imagination: Salome's Dance after 1890, was published by Edinburgh University Press in 2021. It explores the relationship between modernist literature and dance by considering a series of representations of the figure of Salome and her notorious 'dance of the seven veils' across the spheres of drama, choreography, silent film, fiction and poetry. 'Salomania' became a widespread and controversial phenomenon in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, surfacing in the work of 'major' writers such as Oscar Wilde and W. B. Yeats, as well as less well-known artists, including Loïe Fuller, Maud Allan, Alla Nazimova, and Ninette de Valois. Reading different iterations of this recurring theme in dialogue and unearthing unexpected channels of influence, this book illuminates crossovers between the early twentieth-century arts and foregrounds the place of women's modern dance in the modernist imaginary. 

I am developing this research on dance and the body in a second project provisionally titled The Kinaesthetics of Modernism: Literature and the Meaning of Movement, 1880-1940. Focusing on the concept of 'kinaesthesia', otherwise known as the sense of movement, this monograph will explore how modes of movement, gesture, and embodied feeling saturated the literary cultures of the fin de siècle and the early twentieth century, dramatically shaping the work of a range of writers and performers. Engaging with critiques of embodiment by dance and performance scholars, this project primarily builds on recent debates about modernism's 'sensory turn' and considers how kinaesthesia became integral to new articulations of queer and feminist feeling in writing of the period. Figures of particular interest include Vernon Lee, Charlotte Mew, Isadora Duncan, Virginia Woolf, Claude McKay, Margaret Morris, Valentine de Saint-Point, Djuna Barnes, and Mina Loy. 

Research interests

  • Modernism
  • Dance and Performance
  • Queer Theory and Sexuality
  • Decadence
  • Embodiment and the Senses
  • Women Writers of the Fin de Siècle
  • Literature and Silent Film

Esteem Indicators

  • 2021: Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship, University of Cambridge (declined):
  • 2021: Nomination: Teacher of the Year, University of Edinburgh Teaching Awards:
  • 2020: British Association for Modernist Studies Essay Prize:
  • 2020: Nomination: Teacher of the Year, University of Edinburgh Teaching Awards:
  • 2016: John Barrell Prize, English & Related Literature, University of York :
  • 2014: AHRC Doctoral Award, University of York (2014-17):
  • 2013: Rosemary Murray Scholar, Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge (2011-13):


Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

  • Girdwood, Megan (Submitted). Choreographic Collaborations: Yeats and Ninette de Valois. In The Edinburgh Companion to W. B. Yeats and the Arts. Paterson, Adrian, Armstrong, Charles & Walker, Tom Edinburgh University Press.

Edited Journal

Journal Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)

  • Girdwood, Megan (2021). 'Salomania and the Russian Disease'. Staging Decadence: Decadent Theatre in the Long Twentieth Century (Online Article). Digital.