School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Staff Profile

Dr Anne Whitehead

Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature



Anne Whitehead is Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature in the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics at Newcastle University. She has held the post of Senior Lecturer since 2006, and prior to this she was Earl Grey Memorial Postdoctoral Fellow at Newcastle University, before being appointed to a Lecturer position.


Anne has authored books on various aspects of modern and contemporary literature, with particular interests in contemporary fiction, memory and trauma studies, theories of affect, literatures of conflict, and the medical humanities. Her most recent monograph is Medicine and Empathy in Contemporary British Fiction (Edinburgh University Press, 2017). Her previous books include: Trauma Fiction (Edinburgh University Press, 2004) and Memory: New Critical Idiom (Routledge, 2007). Anne has co-edited W. G. Sebald: A Critical Companion (Edinburgh University Press, 2004), Theories of Memory: A Reader (Edinburgh University Press, 2007) and The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities (Edinburgh University Press, 2016). She has also co-edited a special issue of Feminist Theory on feminism and affect (2012) and has published articles in a range of leading international journals, including Modern Fiction Studies, Textual Practice and Contemporary Literature.

Anne has refereed for a number of British and overseas research councils and academic journals and presses and has been appointed as a member of the AHRC Peer Review College (2017-2020). She has supervised 11 PhD students to successful completion, 6 of whom have been AHRC funded. She currently supervises a further 4 PhD students, 3 of whom are funded by the AHRC. She has examined doctoral theses in the UK and abroad and she has been an invited speaker at international conferences and seminars in a number of countries, including Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany.


Anne currently teaches a specialist stage 3 undergraduate module on representations of medicine in modern and contemporary fiction, as well as contributing a unit on literature and biopolitics to a team-taught stage 2 undergraduate module on contemporary cultures. 

At postgraduate level, she teaches contemporary fiction and life writing on the cross-period MA module 'Mind, Body, Affect' and she offers a seminar on medical humanities for the Faculty doctoral training programme. 

Management Roles

In the second semester of 2017-18, Anne will be Research Director for the School of English.  

Anne acted as Postgraduate Director for the School of English from 2013-16. In the first semester of 2015-16 she held the role of Academic Director for the Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership between Newcastle University, Durham University and Queen's University Belfast.

External Activities

Anne has acted as external examiner for undergraduate degree programmes at Cardiff University (2011-14) and she is currently appointed as external examiner for undergraduate programmes in English Literature and Medical Humanities at Bristol University (2016-2020).

Anne has recently been the lead investigator on the first Innovate UK/ AHRC funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership to be awarded nationally in English Literature (2015-16), working with partner organisation Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children's Books to develop an adult audience for their exhibitions. This project, which focused on the Michael Morpurgo archive, was the recipient of the Knowledge Transfer/Exchange Initiative of the Year at the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards, 2017. 





Current Work

Anne's most recent monograph is: 

Anne Whitehead, Medicine and Empathy in Contemporary British Fiction: An Intervention in Medical Humanities (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017).

This book marks a critical intervention in the medical humanities that takes issue with its understanding of empathy as something that one has. Drawing on phenomenology and feminist affect theory, it positions empathy as something that one does and that is embedded within structural, institutional and cultural relations of power. More than this, it questions the assumption that empathy is limited to the clinical relation, thinking about medicine as broader in its scope. Combining theoretical argument with literary case studies, this book also contends that contemporary fiction is not a vehicle for accessing another's illness experience, but is itself engaging critically with the question of empathy and its limits.

Anne has recently co-edited the following book:  

Anne Whitehead, Angela Woods, Sarah Atkinson, Jane Macnaughton and Jennifer Richards (eds) The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016).

You can read the Introduction under the 'Resources' tab at the following link:

In this landmark Companion, expert contributors from around the world map out the field of the critical medical humanities. This is the first volume to introduce comprehensively the ways in which interdisciplinary thinking across the humanities and social sciences might contribute to, critique and develop medical understanding of the human individually and collectively. The thirty-six newly commissioned chapters range widely within and across disciplinary fields, always alert to the intersections between medicine and critical thinking. Together the chapters generate a body of new knowledge and make a decisive intervention into how health, medicine and clinical care might address questions of individual, subjective and embodied experience

 External Funding

Innovate UK / AHRC Knowledge Transfer Partnership (PI) - Developing Exhibitions for an Adult Audience: The Michael Morpurgo Archive, with Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children's Books (2015-2016). Awarded the Knowledge Transfer/Exchange Initiative of the Year at the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards 2017. 

AHRC Research Leave Award (PI) - Memory: New Critical Idiom (2006-2007)

AHRC Research Leave Award (PI) - Trauma Fiction (2002-2003)

British Academy Small Research Grant (PI)- The Charlotte Salomon Archive (2001).

Invited Talks

Anne has recently been invited to speak at the following events:

Presentation: 'Rethinking Empathy in the Critical Medical Humanities', Department of English Speaker Series, University of Kent, January 2018.

Presentation: 'Empathy and/as Practice', Empathy and Affect in Medical and Theatrical Practice, University of Warwick, October 2017.

Special panel: 'Politics and Empathy Today', American Comparative Literature Association Annual Conference, University of Utrecht, June 2017.

Presentation, with Angela Woods: 'Why the Critical Medical Humanities?', Birkbeck, University of London, November 2016.

Keynote Address: 'The Medical Humanities and the Question of Empathy', 40th Conference of AEDEAN, University of Zaragoza, October 2016.


Doctoral Supervision

Current students:

Marie Stern-Peltz, 'Coming of Age and the First World War in Contemporary Fiction After 1989' (AHRC).

Bonny Brooks, 'Story, empathy and trauma: "Red in the Half Light of Winter"' (AHRC).

Emily Anderson, 'Humour in British Writing of the First World War' (AHRC).

Hadeel Alkhudair, 'The American Anti Self-Help Memoir'.


Completed students:

Anne has supervised ten doctoral students to completion, six of whom have been funded by the AHRC. Recent topics include: 'Childhood, memory and nationhood in Cypriot children's literature since 1974',  'Atrocity, culpability, and failures of witnessing in W. G. Sebald and Kazuo Ishiguro', 'Literary and filmic representations of political torture from Algiers to Guantanamo',  and 'Psychoanalysis, Self Identity and Affect: A Creative and Critical Exploration'.


Doctoral Examining

Sheffield University, Durham University, University of St Andrews, University of Stirling, Vaasa University in Finland, and Monarch University in Perth, Australia. 


External Assessorships

AHRC, Wellcome Trust, Leverhulme Trust, Royal Society, Newton Fellowships, Humanities and Social Sciences Research Council of Canada, Flemish Research Council (FWO) Vlaanderen, Research Council of KU Leuven.


Editorial Boards and Professional Memberships  

Member of the AHRC Peer Review College (2017-2020)

Member of the editorial board for the Journal of Trauma and Literature.

Member of steering committee for the Northern Network for Medical Humanities




Undergraduate Teaching

SEL3356, Madness, Medicine and Modern Literature.

SEL2206, Contemporary Cultures

SEL1023, Transformations.


Postgraduate Teaching

SEL8539, Mind, Body, Affect

Thinking Theories and Methods: 'Medical Humanities'.


External Examining

From 2011-2014, Anne was appointed as external examiner for the undergraduate degree programmes in English Literature at Cardiff University.

She is currently acting as external examiner for undergraduate degree programmes in English Literature at Bristol University (2016-20).