Lisa Feklistova, Newnham

Degree: PhD
Course: 1830-PD
Supervisor: Dr Rod Mengham
Dissertation Title:

'Going through the Motions' - Portrayals of Mobility in the Modern Short Story


Biographical Information

I read English Literature and Film & Television Studies at Glasgow University, graduating in 2016 with a dissertation on gendered anxieties in late-Victorian Gothic tales. I went on to obtain an MSc in Literature and Modernity from Edinburgh University in 2017, where my dissertation focused on literary and cinematic portrayals of the metropolis against the backdrop of utopian city planning discourses at the turn of the twentieth century. My doctoral project examines portrayals of mobility in English and German-language short stories between the 1890s and the 1930s. 

Research Interests

What can the short story convey, through metaphors of mobility, that the novel cannot? 

From Thomas Hardy's roundabouts to D. H. Lawrence's rocking-horses to Franz Kafka's endless staircases, images of characters who move without making progress abound in short stories written between the 1890s and the 1930s. My doctoral dissertation examines the relationship between the singular formal properties of the short story and such striking portrayals of (im)mobility against the backdrop of technological and socio-cultural developments at the turn of the twentieth century. 

In particular, my dissertation expands on Edgar Allan Poe's assertion that the formal ‘design’ of a short story ought to resemble ‘a building so dependently constructed that to change the position of a single brick is to overthrow the entire fabric’ of the text. Poe’s architectural metaphors are frequently dismissed on the grounds that short stories do not convey a single, unbroken impression to the reader, but build their effects over time, meaning their plot structures cannot be productively compared to structures such as buildings, which exist in physical space. 

I contend that analogies between architectural and formal designs must be amended, not abandoned, in order to explain the breakdown of structural cohesion associated with the advent of the modern short story. Short story structures are in many ways akin to buildings, with the author acting as both architect and tour-guide, plotting a path for readers to follow as they make progress through the text. Just as the interior lay-out of a house is not apprehended in its entirety the moment a visitor steps through the front door, but is perceived in the process of moving from room to room, so too does the plot structure of a short story emerge gradually, as the reader advances through successive passages in the process of reading. On the way, the reader encounter inhabitants, fictional characters whose trajectories through the story stand in relation to the route which the author has plotted for the reader. How, then, does the reader's progress through the text relate to the paralysis of the characters within? 

Areas of Supervision

I am currently supervising dissertations on 'gaslighting' in Jean Rhys and Patrick Hamilton, on the theological implications of Katherine Mansfield's short stories, and on ideological contradictions in H. G. Wells' 1890s fiction. 

I am furthermore teaching practical criticism, classes on Vladimir Nabokov, Charlotte-Perkins Gilman, Charlotte Mew and Jean Rhys for Paper 7A, as well as supervising a student for the Visual Culture Paper. 

Selected Publications

'Joseph Conrad and the Concept City - Reconstructing London in The Secret Agent.' The Conradian, vol. 44, no. 2, 2019. (forthcoming)

'Phenomenology.' Black Middens - New Writing Scotland 31, edited by Carl MacDougall and Zoë Strachan, Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2013.