School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Staff Profile

Dr Rachel Hewitt

Lecturer in Creative Writing

Background


I arrived in Newcastle as Lecturer in Creative Writing, and Deputy Director of the Newcastle Centre for Literary Arts, in September 2018. In the past, I've been Weinrebe Research Fellow in Life-Writing at Wolfson College, University of Oxford, where I helped to run the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing. Prior to that, I held a 3-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Queen Mary, University of London; and a Research Fellowship at the University of Glamorgan. I completed my PhD in English Literature (on Romanticism and mapping, more or less) at Queen Mary, London; after a M.St in English Studies at Oxford, and an undergraduate degree in English Literature, also at Oxford. 


I am a writer of creative non-fiction. For more information about my books (Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (Granta: 2010); A Revolution of Feeling: The Decade that Forged the Modern Mind (Granta: 2017); and my work-in-progress In Her Nature (Chatto & Windus; 2022)) and other publications, please click on the Research tab.


I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature; and a New Generation Thinker, as part of the AHRC and BBC Radio 3 scheme. I am hugely looking forward to being Political Writer in Residence at Gladstone’s Library in September 2019. I am represented by Tracy Bohan at the Wylie Agency.


Research

Map of a Nation and A Revolution of Feeling


My first book, Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey, was published by Granta in 2010. It charted the history of Britain's national mapping agency, the Ordnance Survey, and its role in helping to shape British imaginings of landscape and national identity. Map of a Nation won the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Galaxy Non-Fiction Awards, the Scottish Book Awards, the Bristol Festival of Ideas Book Prize and BBC History Magazine's Book Prize.


My second book was A Revolution of Feeling: The Decade that Forged the Modern Mind, published by Granta in 2017. A Revolution of Feeling is about emotion: it explores how the emotions that we allow ourselves to feel are shaped by our societies, culture, politics, and language. In particular, my book is interested in emotional change – radical shifts in how people think and talk about emotion – and I’m interested in how this is often a consequence of radical political change. A Revolution of Feeling explores these ideas in the context of one historical decade: the 1790s. And it tells the stories of five political radicals, who began the decade as embodiments of the late enlightenment’s spirit of buoyant optimism, but ended it crushed by disappointment and disillusionment; harbingers of a new cultural attitude towards emotion, defined by pessimism, conservativism and individualism. The shift that A Revolution of Feeling charts – from political hope to disappointment – seems incredibly resonant in the present moment. A Revolution of Feeling won a Gladstone’s Library Political Writing Residency, which I will take up in September 2019.


Work in Progress: In Her Nature


I am currently working on a book about women’s multi-faceted relationships with the natural world. In Her Nature is under contract to Chatto & Windus and will be published in 2022. The book will explore how nature-writing has historically been dominated by the figure heralded by Kathleen Jamie as ‘A white, middle-class Englishman! A Lone Enraptured Male!’, leaving women’s voices and experiences of the natural world muffled. In Her Nature will restore unsung female naturalists and nature-writers (from ultra-runners and mountaineers, to marine biologists, paleontologists and gardeners), and such women's voices and experiences, to centre-stage. And it will focus attention on facets of natural experience that have often been missing from accounts of human interactions with nature, by dint of the fact that they overwhelmingly pertain to women. These might range from accounts of fear of vulnerability to violence and assault in solitary or remote landscapes; to running ultra-marathons with a post-partum female body; to negotiating a philosophical tradition that has aligned femaleness with primitive nature (vs maleness with culture). 

Teaching

My office hours are Thursdays, 4.30pm-5.30pm. 

In Semester One, I will be teaching on SEL1000 Introduction to Creative Writing, and SEL3333 File of Original Literary Work. In Semester Two, I will be teaching on SEL2215 Creative Practice, and SEL8640 Profession of Writing. 

Publications

  • Hewitt R. 'Do "animal Fluids move by Hydraulick laws"?: the Politics of the Hydraulic Theory of Emotion'. The Lancet Psychiatry 2018, 5(1), 25-26.
  • Hewitt R. A Revolution of Feeling: The Decade that Forged the Modern Mind. London: Granta, 2017.
  • Hewitt R. 'Sympathy'. Granta 2017. Granta, 140.
  • Hewitt R. ‘A Family Affair: The Dundas Family of Arniston and the Military Survey of Scotland’. Imago Mundi: The International Journal of Cartography 2012, 64, 60-77.
  • Hewitt R. 'Mapping (and) Romanticism'. Wordsworth Circle 2011, 42, 157-165.
  • Hewitt R. Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey. Granta, 2010.
  • Hewitt R. '"The Spirit of Observation": The Early Ordnance Survey and the British Culture of Patriotism'. Proceedings of the ICA Commission on the History of Cartography 2008, 36, 1-12.
  • Hewitt R. York Notes Advanced: Brian Friel's Making History. Pearson, 2006.
  • Hewitt R. 'William Wordsworth and the Irish Ordnance Survey: "Dreaming o'er the map of things"'. Wordsworth Circle 2006, 38, 80-85.