Dr Helena Ifill


Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA


I was appointed as a University Teacher at Sheffield in 2010, but first came to the city and the University in 2004 in order to take the MA in Nineteenth-Century Studies. I remained to write a PhD in Victorian Literature entitled 'Theories of Determinism in the Fiction of Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Wilkie Collins, 1852-74'. I taught English Literature at the Universities of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam and Newcastle before taking up my current position.


My research relates to the connections between Victorian science, medicine and literature. My exploration of “science” reflects the Victorians’ own flexible, multifaceted conceptions of the term and ranges from physiological textbooks through to periodical debates over the unclear boundaries between (pseudo) science and the supernatural.

I am particularly interested in the representation of unusual medical conditions, mental states and deterministic factors (such as heredity, education and upbringing) in Victorian popular fiction and the periodical press. My main research topic at the moment relates to depictions of the form of insanity known as monomania in medical, popular periodical and fictional writing.

I am co-organiser for the Victorian Popular Fiction Association annual conference and am co-director for the University of Sheffield Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies. I am also a member of the British Association for Science and Literature, the British Association for Victorian Studies, and the Wilkie Collins Society.


I have taught on a number of modules at the University of Sheffield, including on the core Victorian and Romantic modules and MA modules. I am currently the Erasmus tutor for Literature for students visiting Sheffield through the School of Languages and Cultures and teach the following modules:

  • Aspects of Nineteenth-Century American Literature (LIT 402)
  • Victorian Fiction (LIT 404)
  • Gothic Fiction (LIT 415 & LIT 416)
  • Aspects of Twentieth-Century American Literature (LIT 410)
  • Modernism (LIT 417)
  • Shakespeare’s Drama (LIT 418)

Alongside Dr Matthew Cheeseman, I run the bi-annual Erasmus and Study Abroad Photography Competition. Examples of previous shortlisted entries can be found here: Erasmus Photography Competition


  • Forthcoming, Creating Character, monograph for Manchester University Press, Rethinking the Nineteenth Century series.
  • Forthcoming (2015), “‘Gleams of the Supernatural’: Mesmeric Clairvoyance in Mid-Victorian Literature”, Journal for Supernatural Studies
  • Wilkie Collins’s Monomaniacs in Basil, No Name, and Man and Wife”, The Wilkie Collins Journal, 12 (2013) 
  • ‘“Sweeter And Lovelier Than Ever”: Rereading Lucy’, in Telegraph for Garlic, ed by Samia Ounoughi (Red Rattle Books, 2013), pp.27-39
  • “She ought to have been a great man. Nature makes these mistakes now and then”: Right Living in the Wrong Body in John Marchmont’s Legacy’, Leeds Working Papers in Victorian Studies, 10 (March, 2007)
Public engagement and widening participation projects