Helen Charman, Trinity Hall

Degree: PhD
Course: 1830-PD
Supervisor: Dr Jan Schramm
Dissertation Title: George Eliot and transactions of maternal sacrifice

Biographical Information

I read English as an undergraduate at Emmanuel College, and I returned to Emmanuel in 2014 to study the MPhil in Modern and Contemporary Literature. My MPhil thesis was entitled 'The end of you: purpose, work, and gift in Peter Riley, Denise Riley and Andrea Brady's poetry of parenthood’. Now at Trinity Hall, I am writing an AHRC-funded PhD thesis on maternity, economics and sacrifice in nineteenth-century fiction.

Research Interests

I am particularly interested in literary representations of maternal bodies, especially in relation to notions of purpose and product. As well as nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century British and American literature more broadly, my research interests include public health in the nineteenth-century; working motherhood; the relationship between contemporary poetry and social reproduction; Lyric; the relationship between mourning and work, and the poetics of sacrifice and renunciation. I am also interested in pre- and post- colonial legacies in the literature of New Zealand, particularly the relationship between 'canonical' New Zealand writers (Katherine Mansfield, Janet Frame) and the pre-anglophone circulation of narrative and song in Aotearoa.

I have previously lectured on dedication in Frank O’Hara and Denise Riley's elegies, and given papers on Andrea Brady's maternal poetics, capitalism and gynaecology in the nineteenth century, and transactional maternity in George Eliot's early novels.

Areas of Supervision

Practical Criticism; Lyric; Tragedy; Literature from 1830 to the present day.

I am currently supervising Part I and Part II dissertations on: Claudia Rankine; John Ashbery; Nick Cave's parental elegies; contemporary narratives of gender fluidity. 

Selected Publications


'Foreword', ANON: Mary Butts (Oxford: Hurst Street Press, 2017).

'Parental elegy: language in extremis', in collaboration with Anna Burel of the Conceiving Histories project (Birkbeck), King's Review 4 (Winter 2017).


'Where does the shame go? On Sophie Collins' small white monkeys',  The Cambridge Humanities Review 13 (Lent 2018). 

'Unmindful Men: women's bodies in The Winter's Tale',  The Cambridge Humanities Review 12 (Winter 2017). 

'On Elle' (online),  London Review of Books blog (April 2017). 


in New Poetries VII (Manchester: Carcanet, forthcoming April 2018)

Support, support (London: Offord Road Books, August 2018)