Dr Olivia Wright


I recieved my PhD in American Studies from the University of Nottingham and have spent the last year as Fellow in Residence at the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford. I joined the University of Leeds in 2021 as Teaching Fellow in American History.

As an interdisciplinary scholar I am interested in how different communities have historically used cultural tools and artistic expression to navigate and theorize the various manifestations of confinement—both physical sites, such as prisons, psychiatric facilities and reformatory schools, and the various racial, gendered and socioeconomic confinements that impact upon American society more broadly.

I am a recipient of the Organization for Research on Women and Communication (ORWAC) Research Grant and the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association Student Essay Prize. I have acted as postgraduate representative for the British Association of American Studies (BAAS) and have published articles in Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal and the Journal of International Women's Studies. 

Research interests

I am currently working on my book Caged Sister: Women’s Prison Zines in the United States which is the first study to collect, analyse, and theorize the history of women’s prison zines. Examining over 50 publications and nearly 1,000 individual issues, I have mapped the entire literary tradition of women’s prison zines from the 1930s to the present day. The book considers the ways in which the carceral state has affected the production of prison zines over the century: how censorship and outside involvement has influenced the style, production, readership, and content of the zines; and how serialization, reader involvement, and diverse authorship have shaped a distinctive and compelling sub-genre of American literature.

My next research project, “Be good, girls!”: Constructing American Girlhood in Reformatory School Newsletters, analyses the publications from female juvenile facilities and reformatory schools in the United States since 1900. It will plot the entire tradition, identifying how these institutionalised girls crafted a girlhood and shared textual identity in the pages of the newsletters that appeared to marry two disparate identities: the societally disadvantaged deviant taken into state care, and the American girlhood ideal that the institution sought to evoke.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, American Studies, The University of Nottingham
  • MRes, American Studies, The University of Nottingham
  • BA (Hons), American Studies, The University of Nottingham

Professional memberships

  • British Association of American Studies
  • Women in American Studies
  • The Network of American Periodical Studies