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School of English and Drama

Dr Charlie Pullen, BA, MA, PhD (QMUL)


Lecturer in Modern Literature

Twitter: @charliepullen_


I grew up and went to state schools in Brighton before coming to Queen Mary to study English as the first person in my family to go to university. After staying for an MA in modern literature and theory, I worked in widening participation at UCL, and then returned to QMUL to complete a PhD under the supervision of Professor Scott McCracken and Professor Morag Shiach. My thesis, which I am now beginning to turn into a book, explored the relations between British modernism and the rise of progressive experiments in education. In 2019, I won the Raymond Williams Society Postgraduate Essay Prize for an article on the pioneering art teacher Marion Richardson and her uneasy place within modernist culture, which was published in Key Words in 2021. I have written blogs for Times Higher Education and have reviewed books covering a range of topics, from Dorothy Richardson and Virginia Woolf to the politics of English studies and the history of poppers. Having grown up by the sea, I now love living in London and consider myself, like Thomas Hardy, half a Londoner.


I have taught on all years of the BA in English at Queen Mary, ranging from modules like Reading, Theory, and Interpretation and London Global to Livelihoods in English and the English Research Dissertation. English, in my view, is a profoundly creative and experimental subject: my favourite moments in teaching are when students surprise themselves – by spotting something new in a text, by changing their mind, or coming to a fuller understanding of why writers write in the way that they do. Teaching English, as Richard Hoggart once said, is less about delivering something to students and more about trying to make something happen in the classroom. I therefore like to blend practical and creative work into my teaching along with lots of discussion.


Research Interests:

  •         Modernist literature and culture, especially in Britain and particularly fiction and the novel
  •         Early twentieth-century British writers, including D.H. Lawrence, Dorothy Richardson, H.G. Wells, and Virginia Woolf
  •         Cultural histories and representations of education and childhood
  •         History and politics of English studies

Recent and On-Going Research

I am currently starting work on a book project that will tell the story of British modernism’s relationship with the rise of progressive education from the 1890s to the 1930s. This period saw a flourishing of small, sometimes madcap, and often radical experiments in education: from Bedales and Dartington Hall to Summerhill and the less well-known Malting House School. Many modernist writers and intellectuals were drawn to these new schools, either as parents, teachers, or simply as what T.S. Eliot once called (referring to himself) ‘literary dabblers in education’. Some modernists – like Dorothy Richardson – even went to progressive schools when they were children. My book will ask why writers in this period were so fascinated, and sometimes repelled, by these experiments in education that emerged just as they were busy making it new in literature. Beginning with William Morris and late nineteenth-century socialist and simple life movements, the book will include a large cast of writers, including D.H. Lawrence, Rebecca West, H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, May Sinclair, Edward Thomas, E. Nesbit, Hugh MacDiarmid, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Edwin Muir, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf and other members of the Bloomsbury Group. 

My article ‘“Childish Things”: Marion Richardson, Modernism, and the Teaching of Creativity’, which appeared in Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism in 2021, explored an offshoot of this project, focusing on the cultural politics of children’s art education in modernist Britain. The work for this article on the Dudley-based teacher Marion Richardson and the vogue for child art among modernists like Roger Fry has taken me in a new direction, and is forming the basis of a future project on childhood and creativity in early-to-mid twentieth-century British culture, which is framed by the cultural theorist Raymond Williams’s ideas about democratic education.    

I have also researched and presented work on another Marion: the modernist-era writer, psychoanalyst, and sometime Montessori teacher Marion Milner, who was recently the subject of a symposium at the University of Sussex. More broadly I am interested in the history of psychoanalysis and its relations with literary culture and education, especially figures belonging to the Middle or Independent Tradition, like Donald Winnicott and Adam Phillips. 


‘Childish Things: Marion Richardson, Modernism, and the Teaching of Creativity’, Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism 19 (2021), 62–77

‘“A Period of Intense and Feverish Activity”: Experimental Education in the Age of Modernism’, The Modernist Review (2020)


‘Jungle Juice’, review of Deep Sniff: A History of Poppers and Queer Futures, by Adam Zmith (Review 31, 2021)

‘Who’s Afraid of Dorothy Richardson?’, review of Hilary Newman, Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Richardson: Contemporary Writers, in Pilgrimages: The Journal of Dorothy Richardson Studies (2019)

The Work of Literature in an Age of Post-Truth, by Michael Schaberg (Times Higher Education, 2018)

Global Gay: How Gay Culture is Changing the World, by Frédéric Martel (Times Higher Education, 2018)

Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History, by Francis O’Gorman (The Bookbag, 2015)

Romeo and Juliet in Palestine: Teaching Under Occupation, by Tom Sperlinger (The Bookbag, 2015)

Young Eliot: From St Louis to The Waste Land, by Robert Crawford (The Bookbag, 2015)

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