Dr Alison Jane Waller, Reader
More on Alison's research background, publications, teaching, and interests (plus, a few more photos of Borage and Marlow).
Alison Waller is Reader at the University of Roehampton and a member of the National Centre for Research in Children's Literature (NCRCL). Her research interests include young adult fiction, memory and literature, and reading studies. She is also an advocate for distance and online learning, having convened Roehampton's MA Children's Literature by distance learning for ten years. Her publications include Rereading Childhood Books: A Poetics (Bloomsbury 2019) and Constructing Adolescence in Fantastic Realism (Routledge 2009), and she is currently working on a study of ordinariness in contemporary British YA.
Alison's academic journey probably began at the age of fourteen when she read Robert Cormier's 1988 novel for teens, Fade, about a boy who has the power to become invisible. It was one of those books that stayed with her (a fact she has examined critically in 'Fade and the Lone Teenager'. She was reminded of this novel when she was developing ideas for a doctoral project at Oxford Brookes University, following her degree in English Literature and Language at the University of Birmingham. The result was a thesis on young adult fiction 1969-2001, which then became her first monograph, Constructing Adolescence. While studying for the PhD, Alison also worked as a research assistant helping Professor Archie Burnett publish The Letters of A. E. Housman. Although a long way from her own research interests, the project did prompt her curiosity about how lives are narrated and what connections there might be between a young boy writing to his mother from boarding school and an old poet looking back on his literary career. The seeds for Rereading Childhood Books were sown (as this podcast episode of Critical Attitude with Dr Nathan Waddell explores further).
Alison was appointed Lecturer at the University of Roehampton in 2007, and has had the pleasure of introducing children's and YA literature to undergraduate and MA students ever since. One of her favourite parts of the job is supervising PhD students who bring new insights and exciting perspectives to her field. She has also enjoyed leading and contributing to collaborative research with colleagues and members of the general public, including the co-creative project 'Lifelong Reading: New Stories', working with a day centre specialising in early-stage dementia, and the AHRC-funded interdisciplinary 'Memory Network.' She is now running a Covid-19 related project funded by the British Academy, 'Reading for Normal', building digital YA reading communities as a way of exploring what ordinary life looks like for young people pre- and post-lockdown.
Bringing academic ideas and real-world experiences together is a crucial part of Alison's personal philosophy. But, she also treasures time away from teaching and research. She has recently swapped the Regency delights of the city of Bath for a rural retreat in Oxfordshire. She now finds herself growing (and often, tragically, failing to grow) vegetables, baking (her speciality is Proustian madeleines), and going for runs that no longer involve hills. She seeks out high ground and thrills where possible, and relishes exploring the world and snowboarding in the Alps. Her partner and his children have also introduced her to Virtual Reality gaming, which has proven especially satisfying at times when travel further afield is challenging. Alison shares all of this (apart from snowboarding) with her two cats, Borage and Marlow, who are her constant comfort and inspiration. They feature in an unpublished series of short stories, The Adventures of Borage and Marlow, despite rarely leaving the sofa.