Rachel Sykes

Colleges, School and Institutes


I joined the University of Birmingham in 2016, having previously taught English and American Studies at the University of Nottingham, the University of Leicester, and Nottingham Trent University.

Prior to academia, I taught English in Moscow and worked as a journalist for CityWide News in Dublin. I also worked for Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership as an administrator until 2015.

Research interests

My first book, The Quiet Contemporary American Novel, was published with Manchester University Press in 2017. It is the first study to develop a theory of quiet as a narrative aesthetic in contemporary fiction and shows how, as a phrase, “the quiet novel” has a long and untraced history dating back to the 1860s in British and American periodicals.

Post-quietness, I am developing new work based in contemporary feminisms, memoir studies, and popular culture. My second book project, currently in the early stages of development, will function as an updated study of confession in an era of neoliberalism. I published an article on popular and critical use of the term oversharing and its relationship to gendered online identities with Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society and I’m currently writing about discourses of risk and precarity in contemporary confessional writing.

Willingness to take 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.