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Dr Sue Asbee

Sue Asbee photo

Profile summary

Professional biography

I became a member of the OU English Department in 2000. Before that I lectured at Queen Mary, University of London, where I had completed all of my postgraduate studies.

Research interests

My PhD was on readers and so-called experimental texts; the main focus was the Irish writer Flann O’Brien’s novel At Swim-Two-Birds (1939). O’Brien was less daunting than James Joyce, who I had originally planned to study. My interest in ways reader engage with fictional texts led to related work on detective fiction, while the Irish connection remains an abiding interest.
While I was working on entries for The Feminist Companion to Literatures in English in the late 1980s, I came across Margiad Evans’s fiction. Since then I have worked on her unpublished writing as well as bringing out an edition of her autobiographical novel, The Wooden Doctor (first published in 1933). My edition of her last, and most challenging novel, Creed (1936) comes out in 2018. Evans’s writing has generated my interest in biography, autobiography and, in particular, illness narratives (or pathographies). The following link will take you to a paper about Evans’s unpublished manuscript The Nightingale Silenced, her account of the acute stage of her illness from an inoperable brain tumour, which I gave at an interdisciplinary conference on The Patient which took place in Salzburg in 2008. “To Write a Great Story”: Margiad Evans’ Illness Narratives in The Patient: Probing the Inter-Disciplinary Boundaries edited by Aleksandra Bartoszko and Maria Vaccarella. Read the eBook (PDF, 1.13 MB)
 More recently I have edited  volume 3 of The Women Aesthetes, which focuses on the last decade of the nineteenth century and includes women writers like Vernon Lee, John Oliver Hobbes, Rosamund Marriott Watson and Ella D’Arcy whose work appeared in the Yellow Book, a publication considered to be the benchmark of aestheticism.

Selected Publications

Yellow Book Writers The Women Aesthetes: British Writers, 1870 – 1900, vol. 3 London: Pickering & Chatto, 2013
'"Not quite every character is a living person in this story. And not quite the reverse." Margiad Evans: Memory, Fiction and Autobiography' in Rediscovering Margiad Evans: Marginality, Gender and Illness eds Bohata and Gramisch, University of Wales Press, Cardiff 2013
'New York: poems and stories' in Asbee and Haslam eds (2012)  The Twentieth Century, Bloomsbury Academic/The Open University
'Substance into Shadow: starvations and death in Arnold Bennett's Riceyman Steps' in Double Dialogues: The Hunger Artist Issue, Winter 2011, issue 15;
“To Write a Great Story”: Margiad Evans’ Illness Narratives in The Patient: Probing the Inter-Disciplinary Boundariesedited by Aleksandra Bartoszko and Maria Vaccarella ISBN: 978-1-904710-83-7. Download the eBook (PDF, 1.13 Mb)
'The Poetry of Frank O'Hara and Allen Ginsberg' in The Popular and the Canonical ed David Johnson 2005.
Margiad Evans The Wooden Doctor, edited with an introduction by Sue Asbee
‘Margiad Evans’s The Wooden Doctor: Illness and Sexuality’ in Welsh Writing in English 2004
‘Kate Chopin’s The Awakening’ in The Nineteenth Century Novel: Identities (2001) ed. Dennis Walder, Routledge/Open University
At Swim-Two-Birds, Readers and Literary Reference’ in Conjuring Complexities: Essays on Flann O’Brien, ed. Clune and Hurston, Institute of Irish Studies, Queens University, Belfast, 1997
Flann O’Brien, G.K.Hall, Boston USA 1991
Contributions on twentieth-century women fiction writers in The Feminist Companion to Literature in English, ed. Blain, Clements, and Grundy, Yale University Press (USA), Batsford (UK), 1991


Teaching interests

I am currently Chair of A230 Reading and Studying Literature. I edited The Twentieth Century  (book three of A230) with my colleague Sara Haslam, and wrote on Langston Hughes and Claude McKay, poets living and writing in New York in the 1920s and 30s, for ‘Cities’, also a chapter on Frankenstein for the 'Romantics' part of the module. I wrote on the American poets Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg, associated with New York like Hughes and McKay, for A300 Debating Twentieth Century Literature, and chapters on the American writer Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening for AA316 The Nineteenth Century Novel.

My interests in nineteenth and twentieth century literature are also evident in A335 Literature in Transition: 1800 – the present. For that I wrote chapters on the Victorian poet Arthur Hugh Clough, as well as Virginia Woolf’s last novel, Between the Acts. The short video Women Writers: Voices in Transition (link below) was made at Monk's House, Woolf's home in Sussex.


Substance into Shadow: starvation and death in Arnold Bennett's Riceyman Steps (2011)
Asbee, Sue
Double Dialogues: The Hunger Artists, 2011(15)

Student-student mentoring in distance education (1999)
Simpson, Ormond; Asbee, Sue and Woodall, Sue
Journal of Access and Credit Studies, 2(2) (pp. 220-232)

Partners, Families and Friends: Student support of the closest kind (1998-11)
Simpson, Ormond and Asbee, Sue
Open Learning, 13(3) (pp. 56-59)

‘Not quite every character is a living person in this story. And not quite the reverse.’ Margiad Evans: Memory, fiction and autobiography (2013-02)
Asbee, Sue
In: Bohata, Kirsti and Gramich, Katie eds. Rediscovering Margiad Evans - Marginality, Gender and Illness
ISBN : 9780708325605 | Publisher : University of Wales Press | Published : Cardiff

"To Write a Great Story": Margiad Evans' Illness Narratives (2009)
Asbee, Sue
In: Bartoszko, Aleksandra and Vaccarella, Maria eds. The Patient: Probing Interdisciplinary Boundaries (pp. 55-64)
ISBN : 978-1-904710-83-7 | Publisher : Inter-Disciplinary Press

Margiad Evans's The Wooden Doctor: Illness and Sexuality (2004)
Asbee, Sue
In: Brown, Tony ed. Welsh Writing in English (pp. 33-49)
ISBN : 0-70831-829-0 | Publisher : University of Wales Press

Yellow Book Writers (2013-10)
Asbee, Sue ed.
The Women Aesthetes: British Writers, 1870 - 1900
ISBN : 9781848932272 | Publisher : Pickering and Chatto | Published : London

The Twentieth Century (2012-02)
Haslam, Sara and Asbee, Sue eds.
Reading and Studying Literature
ISBN : 9781849666206 | Publisher : Bloomsbury Academic | Published : London

The Wooden Doctor by Margiad Evans (2005-02)
Asbee, Sue
Asbee, Sue ed.
Honno Classics
ISBN : 9781870206686 | Publisher : Honno | Published : Aberystwyth