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Sociology: People


Donna Hetherington

Donna Hetherington
Donna Hetherington
Edinburgh UK
Research Interests
Archival research, Documents of Life, Women's History, Feminist Research, Historical sociology, Networking and Mapping, Everyday Life and the City

Research Topic

My PhD topic is a socio-cultural one which is attached to and a part of the Olive Schreiner Letters Project

            My research is concerned with the lives and literary practices of London-based women writers in the 1880s. As such it adds to the growing literature about women’s histories in relation to the city in the late-Victorian era, but from a uniquely socio-cultural perspective. My aim is to locate and explore the connections between writers such as Olive Schreiner, Amy Levy, Eleanor Marx, Vernon Lee, Margaret Harkness and others, in terms of their feminist views and ideas and how these are translated in the various writings they produced. Particular attention is given to the women’s relationship to, and representations of, the city.

            There is an empirical focus throughout the thesis, each chapter having its foundation in archival materials including letters, diaries, manuscript drafts, and other documents including newspaper articles, and these sources provide interesting ways into understanding the women writer’s everyday lives in this time and place. Also, and in addition to the archival sources, some of the women’s published writings are used to explore a feminist imaginary of the city, where issues of race, class and gender equality are represented in various literary forms such as in novels, poetry and allegories. Using these multifarious sources I build a bricolage of interlinked narratives and by working across the ‘personal’ and ‘public’ literary spheres, it is intended to show how ideas emerge, are shared through letter-writing and networking, how they culminate in published works, and importantly, how notions of the public and the private are not so clearly separated.

Educational Background including Awards

Current PhD in Cultural Sociology, University of Edinburgh. Awarded 1 year ESRC Schreiner Scholarship 2009. Awarded 3 year AHRC doctoral funding 2009-2012.

MA Life History Research: Oral History and Life Story Documents, University of Sussex.

BA (Hons) Critical Fine Art Practice, University of Brighton (with First Class Honours).

Postgraduate Certificate in Secondary Education, De Montfort University, Leicester (with Distinction).

Papers, Publications and Book Reviews

(2011) "'I am too much shut in with the personal': Representations of public love and private death in the Case of Amy Levy" in ed. Liz Stanley 'Olive Schreiner and Company: Letter and 'Drinking in the External World'" OSLP Working Papers on Letters, Letterness & Epistolary Networks No. 3, University of Edinburgh, pp. 109-37 

(April 2011) The 'Never-Ending' Nature of Last Letters: Exploring Time, Space and Absence. Paper given at New Directions in Sociological Research, University of Edinburgh.

(March 2011) The Last Letters of Amy Levy and Eleanor Marx. Paper given at the Picture This: Postcards and Letters Beyond Text Conference, University of Sussex.

(September 2010) Kurkowska-Budzan and Kryzstof Zamorski (eds) Oral History: the Challenge of Dialogue. 'Book Review', Journal of Gender Studies, 19:3, 315-331.

(July 2010) "I am too much shut up in the personal": on Public Love and Private Death. Paper given at The International Auto/Biography Association Conference, University of Sussex.

(April 2010)  Writing Against the Victorian Grain: Making Connections and Keeping it 'Messy'. Paper given at New Directions in Sociological Research, University of Edinburgh - Runner-Up prize awarded.

(September 2007) Women's Words: What Women Say About Smoking and the Pub in Mass Observation. Unpublished Masters dissertation.

(July 2005) Coming Down From the Balcony: How does the visual experience of the flaneur 'map' onto the visual experience of the feminine? Unpublished BA dissertation.

Other Professional Activities and Memberships:

Member of the British Sociological Association

Member of BSA study groups: Social Network Analysis; Theory; Auto/Biography; and Medical Sociology study group

Illustrations Editor for Comedy Studies Intellect Journal


Liz Stanley, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Narrative and Auto/Biographical Studies.

Liliana Riga, Programme Director, MSc in Global Social Change.