dissertation corner with sophie richardson

By Tia Byer

In this week’s visit to dissertation corner, we find out about Sophie Richardson’s dissertation on the crime novel. Sub-Editor Tia Byer reports.

Tell us about your dissertation.

For my dissertation I am researching crime fiction as a genre. For this I am analyzing Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories series and discussing how Atkinson subverts the genre. This has involved me researching the tropes of crime fiction and analyzing the ways in which she changes that in her own literature. Atkinson’s focus on the psychology and relationships surrounding the crime, as oppose to the actual events leading up to it, is something that really interests me. The events of the crime and the identity of the murderer are always left to the end.

My theoretical framework for my dissertation incudes gender theory and looking at how masculinity and femininity are represented. I am also using trauma theory, where I am looking at how Atkinson writes trauma and how this is distinct to the genre of crime fiction.

How has your dissertation changed from your proposal?

Well my ideas have really developed. My proposal was very basic and vague. I hadn’t done much research yet and I didn’t have a clear idea about where I wanted to go with it. I had thought about using feminism, but I was not entirely sure about in what capacity and how exactly this would work. However, through my ongoing research and actually writing my dissertation, I get more ideas, and it really keeps evolving.

How did you come to choose this topic and research area?

Well at the end of second year, I was in a bit of a panic because I didn’t really know what to do. I went to see Dr Fraser Mann to discuss some possible interests of mine. My list was quite extensive; my interests ranged from crime and thrillers to texts about natural disasters. After much discussion, where Fraser had suggested the Kate Atkinson series would be a good starting point for a dissertation about crime texts, I decided upon my idea.

What have you been enjoying so far about your dissertation?

I would say that working closely with a dissertation tutor really has been a rewarding experience. At the beginning I was a bit stressed as I didn’t have much confidence in what my argument would be, but receiving feedback for chapter drafts and seeing my own writing style improving, really has helped me to feel positive about my project. It makes you feel that you will be able to pull it off in the end.

What would you say has been most challenging so far?

I would say that the sheer amount of research has been challenging. With having quite a few different focuses, there is a lot of reading to do and narrowing down of ideas. Also, because the Case Histories series was only published in 2005, there is very little research out there linking directly to the texts. So, instead I have had to research in other areas. No one at this university has written a dissertation on Atkinson’s series before and it is very different from what people usually do, so I do feel as if with my project I am in uncharted territory.