Dr Richard Steadman-Jones
Room 4.02, Jessop West
Internal extension: 20218
I am a Senior Lecturer in the School of English; my field is the History of Ideas; and the main focus of my research is the way in which language has been – and is now – conceptualised in the context of cross-cultural encounters. I use many different types of text in exploring this issue: technical linguistic works like grammars and dictionaries, philosophical writing, literary works including novels and (auto)biography, and popular material including newspaper articles and writing from the web.
My earliest research concentrated on the role of language in colonial encounters and in 2007 I published a book on early British grammars of the South Asian languages, Hindi and Urdu, under the title Colonialism and Grammatical Representation. I have also written on 17th-century descriptions of Native American languages and 19th-century grammars of the West African language, Wolof. In all this work, I have been particularly concerned with the relationship between technical descriptions of linguistic structure and the political contexts in which those descriptions were produced.
I continue to take an interest in the study of colonial culture and in April 2011 I spoke at a conference on ‘The East India Company and the Study of Language’ at City University, Hong Kong. I also have an article on John Masters´ fictional representations of British India forthcoming in a collection edited by Rachael Gilmour and Bill Schwarz to be published by Manchester University Press in summer 2011.
Much of my present work focuses on a different kind of cross-cultural experience: the condition of exile. In collaboration with Jessica Dubow, a colleague from the department of Geography, I have written two articles on linguistic ideas in the work of the novelist, W.G. Sebald. And, since 2009 I have been collaborating with Jessica and my colleague from the School of English, Frances Babbage, on an AHRC-funded project with the title `Archive of Exile´. Each of us is working with a different artist – in my case the New York-based composer, Eve Beglarian – on the relationship between the concepts of archive and exile. Eve and I both have a strong interest in the documentation of language, speech, and the human voice, and this forms the focus of our work together. As part of her research for the project, Eve kayaked the length of the Mississippi river between August and December 2009, and I did the first part of the journey with her. The trip was reported in the arts pages of the New York Times.
The project will result in an exhibition to be held at a Sheffield arts centre, Bank Street Arts, in summer 2011 and in a special edition of an academic journal.
In addition, I am leading another AHRC-funded project with the title `Writing in the Home and in the Street´. This project also involves collaboration between academics and artists and the focus is on exploring everyday literacy practices in various communities in Rotherham, some very multilingual and some much more monolingual. Our aim is to work closely with local people to develop an account of the role of writing in a range of day-to-day contexts. This project will run until October 2011 and will also result in exhibits and academic articles.
Finally, in 2010 I took over the organisation of Sheffield University´s successful programme of cross-disciplinary events, Arts-Science Encounters. I run this programme with my co-director, Jessica Dubow and our 2011 season included events on geometry in art, dance, and engineering, the psychological collection at the Science Museum, the sun as an object of artistic and technological enquiry, the emergence of the concept of the scientific fact, the relationship between physics and theology, and the bee in science and culture.
Most of my teaching is on the BA and MA courses in English Language and Literature. I contribute teaching on the history of rhetoric and persuasive writing, language in digital media, and different perspectives on the relationship between language and power.
I´m very interested in exploring different approaches to learning and teaching, and in 2005 I was awarded a University of Sheffield Senate Award for my work in this area. Over the years, I’ve spoken at a range of events organised by the Subject Centres for English and for Languages, Linguistics, and Area Studies, most recently at an event on ‘The Interface between English Literature and English Language’ held at the University of Sussex in May 2011.
In line with my interests in educational practice, I've recently co-edited a special edition of the journal, Language and Literature, dealing with the place of stylistic analysis in research on learning and teaching.