Rachel Sykes


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I would love to hear from students interested in themes related to my research: gender, sexuality, and race in memoir and online cultures; fiction post-2000; disability and queer theory; contemporary women writers, including but not limited to Marilynne Robinson, Jesmyn Ward, Kamila Shamsie, Elena Ferrante, and Lynne Tillman; gender and popular culture.


Research activity per year

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Personal profile


I joined the University of Birmingham in 2016, after teaching English and American Studies at the University of Nottingham, the University of Leicester, and Nottingham Trent University.

Prior to academia, I taught English in Veliky Novgorod, Russia and worked as a journalist for local papers in Shropshire and Dublin. I also worked for Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership as an administrator until 2015.

Research interests

My research and teaching focuses on memoir and contemporary life-writing, digital and popular cultures, and their intersections with gender and queer theory. I am currently working on a study of ‘confession’ under neoliberalism and write regularly on feminist politics in contemporary literature, TV, and pop music.

I also work on sound studies and the cultural values attributed to quiet and loud in North America. My first book, The Quiet Contemporary American Novel, was published by Manchester University Press in 2018 and was recently out in paperback. My co-edited collection on Marilynne Robinson, reading the author in her contemporary and political contexts for the first time, was published in March 2022.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality


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