Stephen Whiting

Stephen Whiting


My research examines masculine anxiety at the fin-de-siècle in response to changing literary and social dynamics. I am the recipient of a fully-funded University of Leeds 110 Anniversary PhD scholarship. My supervisor is Dr Katherine Mullin.


I have extensive teaching experience of subject areas including:

Poetry: Reading and Interpretation

Prose: Reading and Interpretation

Drama: Reading and Interpretation

I have also been awarded an Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA) for the quality of my teaching practice.


For the academic year 2019/20 I will be teaching on the following modules:

Semester 1: Twentieth-Century Fiction

Semester 2: Victorian Literature 

Selected Conferences and Presentations

‘Science is a match that man has just got alight’: The Fourth Dimension, the “Man of Science” and the Unreadable “Book of Nature” in The Time Machine’, Science and Spiritualism, 1750-1930, Leeds Trinity University (2019)

‘What makes a good research topic and how to complete it’, MA Workshop, School of English, University of Leeds (2019)

‘Women Reading and Unreadable Women in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure’, BAVS 2018: Victorian Patterns Conference, University of Exeter (2018) 

‘Laplanche Seduces Kristeva: [Re]locating the [M]other in Semiotic Discourse’, Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society Conference, Middlesex University (2015)

Research interests

My work operates at the intersections of Victorianism, feminism, men's studies and book history. Broadly, my thesis examines the way fin de siècle literature reflected growing anxiety surrounding constructions of masculinity, mapping this on to representations of the "book," of reading and of writing. 

My first chapter on George Gissing's New Grub Street examines the way that anxieties surrounding the literary mass market and the male author were located against a backdrop of fears around syphilitic infection to encode the novelist in a binary of fallen woman and diseased man.

My second chapter examines how Thomas Hardy's depiction of Sue Bridehead's reading in Jude the Obscure displaces the titular character from his own eponymous narrative, showing in the hermeneutic method of Sue's reading an ability to read (and undermine) wider gender discourses. 

My third chapter locates H. G. Wells' The Time Machine amidst the revolutionary changes in the science world, notably the birth of modern physics. Through the image of the unreadable "book of nature" embedded within representations of reading-as-observing, this chapter examines the anxious transition from a comfortable determinist classical mechanics to a modern physics with uncertainty and unreadability at its very core.

My final chapter foregrounds the "literary tantalus" in Wells' social comedies, Kipps and The History of Mr Polly. Following the promise of the Education Act of 1870 to not only increase literacy but improve social mobility, this chapter examines the way that books as objects of social progression and as symbols of transcendent experience remain tantalisingly out of reach of the novels' lower-middle-class men.

My other research areas of interest include general work on George Gissing, Thomas Hardy and H. G. Wells, Victorian masculinity, late-Victorian history of science and the overlap of Victorianism and postmodern theory.



  • MA Modern and Contemporary Literature, University of Leeds
  • BA English Language and Literature, University of Leeds