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School of English and Drama

Dr Clare Stainthorp, MA Hons and MLitt (Glasgow), PhD (Birmingham)


Leverhulme Early Career Fellow



I joined QMUL as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in January 2021 to work on a project about nineteenth-century atheist, secular, and agnostic movements and the associated periodical press. Prior to this, I worked at University College London in a role supporting impact activities across the Faculties of Arts & Humanities and Social & Historical Sciences. In 2019 I was a research assistant on a collaborative project between UCL and the Resolution Foundation exploring the intersections of structural inequalities: ‘Exploring Inequalities: Igniting research to better inform UK policy’.

I was awarded my PhD by the University of Birmingham in 2017 for research on the Victorian poet, philosopher, and scientist Constance Naden. In 2017/18 I was the Nineteenth-Century Matters Early Career Fellow at Cardiff University, a position supported by the British Associations of Victorian Studies and Romantic Studies. I have taught at UCL and the University of Birmingham.

You can find me on Twitter here.


I am not currently teaching in the department. However, I would be very happy to discuss topics related to my areas of research with both undergraduate and postgraduate students.


Research Interests:

  • Nineteenth-century literature and intellectual history
  • Freethought movements
  • Victorian periodicals
  • Literature and science
  • Victorian poetry

Recent and On-Going Research

I am primarily working on my second book project: ‘Reading the Freethought Movement: Atheism, Agnosticism, and Secularism, 1866–1907’. This research focuses on how freethinkers harnessed the power of periodicals as networks to shape conversations about faith and society in Victorian Britain. I am interested in how the freethought press fostered a sense of collective identity as a radical reform movement and how these writings can enhance our understanding of nineteenth-century society as well as provide a new perspective on modern-day secularism.

My 2019 monograph was the first major study of the freethinking poet, philosopher, and student of science Constance Naden (1858–1889), about whom I have also published several shorter pieces. The book introduces Naden’s life and diverse works, demonstrating how a rigorous scientific education, a thorough engagement with poetry and philosophy of the long nineteenth century, an involvement with the Victorian radical atheist movement, and a comic sensibility each shaped her intellectual achievements. I argue that Naden’s guiding principle was ‘unity in diversity’, a concern that resonated across a century shaped by scientific discovery, secularisation, and political agitation. This research was underpinned by my discovery of three of Naden’s adolescent notebooks, dating from the 1870s. The notebooks’ contents doubled her poetic corpus and were the first manuscript materials attributable to Naden. In collaboration with her descendants, I facilitated the deposit of these documents at the University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Research Library where they are now publicly accessible.




Nineteenth-Century Religion, Literature, and Culture, Vol. 4 Disbelief and New Beliefs, co-edited with Naomi Hetherington (Routledge, 2020).

Constance Naden: Scientist, Philosopher, Poet (Peter Lang, 2019).



‘On the Discovery of a Sequence of Constance Naden’s Notebooks: Finding Her Voice, 1875–1879’, Victorian Poetry 56.3 (2018), 233–63.

‘Tracing the Sculptural Legacy of Constance Naden: Memorialisation, Gender and the Portrait Bust’, co-authored with Sarah Parker, Journal of Victorian Culture, 23.4 (2018), 508–26.

‘Activity and Passivity: Class and Gender in the Case of the Artificial Hand’, Victorian Literature and Culture, 45 (2017), 1–16.

‘Constance Naden: A Critical Overview’, Literature Compass, 14 (2017).



Structurally Unsound. UCL and Resolution Foundation ‘Exploring Inequalities: Igniting research to better inform UK policy’ project report [PDF] (2019). Co-authored with Siobhan Morris, Oliver Patel, and Olivia Stevenson.


Short articles

‘Constance Naden’ and ‘Freethinkers’, Palgrave Encyclopedia of Victorian Women Writers, ed. by Lesa Scholl and Emily Morris (2020)

‘Teaching guide for “Constance Naden: A Critical Overview”’, Literature Compass, 14 (2017).



‘Review: The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Women's Poetry’ ed. by Linda K. Hughes’, Women: A Cultural Review, 30.4 (2019), 491–94

‘Review: The Political Poetess Victorian Femininity, Race, and the Legacy of Separate Spheres by Tricia Lootens’, Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies, 14.2 (2018).

‘The Victorian Period: Poetry’, The Year’s Work in English Studies, 97 (2018), 844–71. Co-authored with Michael J. Sullivan

‘The Victorian Period: Poetry’, The Year’s Work in English Studies, 96 (2017), 872–97. Co-authored with Michael J. Sullivan

‘The Victorian Period: Poetry’, The Year’s Work in English Studies, 95 (2016), 914–40. Co-authored with Clara Dawson

Public Engagement

I have a keen interest in the theory and practice of public engagement, stemming from my time working as a Research Impact Officer at UCL. I welcome opportunities to share my research with, and learn from, those outside academia.

In partnership with Constance Naden’s descendants, I led a successful campaign to replace Naden’s gravestone in Birmingham’s Key Hill Cemetery, which was illegible and in a state of disrepair. The appeal featured in local media and led to an ‘In-Conversation’ event on Naden at the Birmingham and Midland Institute (March 2018) and an online public talk about her importance for the Jewellery Quarter Cemeteries Project (August 2020). The new gravestone was installed in May 2019.

Other public engagement and impact activities include: