Elizabeth Purdy


In 2018, I graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA (Hons) in English Literature having completed my undergraduate dissertation on the representations of memory in the work of William Faulkner.

In October 2018, I went on to start a Masters by Research, also at the University of Leeds, which was supervised by Professor David Platten and Dr Richard Hibbitt and was generously supported by the award of the 2018–19 Sutcliffe Scholarship. My MA thesis, entitled Lettres sans lecteurs: Epistolarity, Apostrophe and the Use of the Second Person in Contemporary French Literature, considered the sporadic use of a second-person narratee which I noted to be an emergent trend in many French novels. I argued that this use of the second person has its roots in the epistolary tradition. 

After spending a year working in education, I returned to the University of Leeds to begin my PhD thesis in the field of comparative literature, thanks to the award of a Leeds Doctoral Scholarship. 

Research interests

My PhD thesis, which is currently titled Chaque fois unique, la fin du monde: Towards a Secular Theory of the End in Recent French and English Fiction, looks at the way trends in belief influence the ends of literary texts. Drawing on the scholarship on endings which comes before me, such as the work of Frank Kermode and Peter Brooks, and a broad range of texts in both French and English, I argue that in contemporary literature texts’ endings seem to be moving from a model orientated towards “closure” to one of “openess”. Central to my thesis, is the idea that, as society becomes more secular, literature too is turning away from higher organising structures, operating increasingly in ‘secular’ rather than ‘transcendent’ time. 

Beyond my PhD thesis, I have a growing interest in the blue humanities. I am particularly interested in how thinking about the properties of water can allow us to think more productively about literary form. Another recurring theme in my academic work is the ways that literary texts depict the processes of remembering.  

Selected Conference papers

Collapse and Extinction: Art, Literature and Discourse (Stockholm University 2021)

Paper to be presented entitled ‘ERROR 404: Revisiting Apocalyptic Literature via Hervé le Tellier’s l’Anomalie 

New Voices, New Perspectives: LCS PGR Conference (The University of Leeds, 2019)

Paper given entitled ‘Re-envisioning the Past and Re-envisioning its Form: Les Affranchis and the Transformation of the Epistolary Form’ as part of a panel proposal on the theme of reimagination in European Literature.

Imagining ‘We’ in the Age of ‘I’: Romance and Social Bonding in Contemporary Culture (The University of Warwick, 2019)

Paper given entitled ‘Desperately Seeking a Connection: Modes of Communication in Christophe Ono-dit-Biot’s Plonger’.

The University of Leeds Undergraduate Research Event (The University of Leeds, 2018)

Flash Presentation given entitled ‘The Death of the Hedgehog: Comparative Readings of ‘The Mower’ by Phillip Larkin and ‘Sunstroke’ by Ted Hughes.

Other academic acheivements

  • Performed the administrative duties for the John Dryden Translation Competition 2018–2019
  • Run the blog ‘In Search of the Perfect Ending’ which reviews the endings of narratives for a popular audience. 
  • Volunteer as a facilitator for ShareAmi, matching students of French with French senior citizens to practice their speaking and prevent loneliness. 


  • Master of Arts by Research (French Literature) - Pass with Distinction
  • English Literature BA (Hons) - First Class

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for World Literatures