A former local government employee’s passion for the work of Virginia Woolf and how the author’s political activism draws parallels with modern day issues is the inspiration behind her leading research at Leeds Trinity University.

Two people entering reception, tree and grass.

Marielle O’Neill has embarked on an individual PhD thesis at the University after successfully being awarded a full-time funded studentship. 

The 32-year-old from Batley in West Yorkshire is studying how Woolf’s political activism engages with contemporary feminist and anti-fascist political movements, as well as LGBTQ+ rights such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and gender fluidity. 

Woolf, regarded as one of the twentieth century’s most influential modernist authors, was heavily involved in the Labour Party, Fabian Society and Women’s Co-Operative Guild, campaigning on issues including education, women’s rights, anti-colonialism and the anti-war agenda. 

Marielle said: “I have previous experience in local government and, like Woolf, have been active with the same organisations so hope to marry my professional career with my passion for the author. A key part of my research is to make Woolf contemporary to younger generations as I feel her work is especially relevant to today and the issues that are most prevalent in our society. 

“I am really excited and feel privileged to have the opportunity to visit archives to see and study Woolf’s letters, diaries and manuscripts.” 

Marielle, who plans to move into university teaching once she has completed her PhD, added: “I feel honoured to have been awarded the PhD Studentship at Leeds Trinity. Without it I would not be able to afford to study full-time so I am extremely grateful to be able to study at a university that places such a positive emphasis on the wellbeing of its students at both an academic and personal level.” 

Reverend Professor Jane de Gay, Professor of English Literature and a world-renowned Virginia Woolf expert, will be Marielle’s primary PhD supervisor. 

Professor de Gay said: “I am delighted that Marielle has chosen to do her PhD at Leeds Trinity. Like Woolf, Marielle has a passion for social justice, which is very much part of the Leeds Trinity ethos. 

“Marielle has also done sterling work with the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain during lockdown and she has a lot to offer our research culture. I am excited to see how her research develops.” 

The PhD Studentships have been introduced to reflect the continued emphasis on high quality research at Leeds Trinity University and have been appointed in its areas of research strength. 

Find out more about postgraduate research opportunities on the Leeds Trinity University website

Categories: Research

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