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Professor Susan Watkins - Leeds Beckett. Leeds, West Yorkshire, GB

Professor Susan Watkins

Professor | Leeds Beckett University

Leeds, West Yorkshire, UNITED KINGDOM

Professor Susan Watkins is an expert in contemporary women's fiction and feminist theory.



Professor Susan Watkins Publication Professor Susan Watkins Publication Professor Susan Watkins Publication Professor Susan Watkins Publication Professor Susan Watkins Publication Professor Susan Watkins Publication



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Professorial  Inaugural lecture - Susan Watkins


Professor Ruth Robbins: Virginia Woolf and the making of modern sexualities COVID-19 and Culture: Part one - Historic parallels COVID-19 and Culture: Part two - Changes to lives and culture COVID-19 and Culture: Part three - Stigma, social inequality and cultural resistance COVID-19 and Culture: Part four - Writing and positive change



Susan Watkins is Professor of Women's Writing in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. She is an expert in contemporary women's writing and feminist theory, with particular research interests in dystopia, apocalyptic fiction, ageing and the future.

Susan's most recent book is about contemporary women’s post-apocalyptic writing. As well as her interests in Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, and contemporary women's dystopian and apocalyptic fiction, Susan is currently working on research projects on ageing and the future and ageing and the cultural industries. She welcomes proposals from prospective PhD students in these areas and in the broader field of women's fiction and feminist theory.

Susan is a founder member and former Chair of the Contemporary Women's Writing Association and previously a Co-Editor of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature. She was Director of the university's Centre for Culture and the Arts for 10 years.

Susan's main teaching at undergraduate level includes modules on Twentieth-Century Literature: Alienation and Dystopia (level 5) and Twentieth-Century Women Novelists: Feminist Theory into Practice (level 6). At MA level she teaches the modules Literature in Practice and Contemporary Apocalyptic Fictions.

Industry Expertise (3)



Writing and Editing

Areas of Expertise (8)

Contemporary Women's Dystopian and Apocalyptic Fiction

Doris Lessing






Margaret Atwood

Affiliations (1)

  • Contemporary Women's Writing Association : Member

Languages (1)

  • English

Media Appearances (6)

S2E1 Feat. Professor in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities and Director of the Centre for Culture and the Arts at Leeds Beckett University, Susan Watkins

Tales From The Leeds Library  online


Welcome back to Tales from The Leeds Library! Kicking off our second season is a fascinating conversation with Susan Watkins. We talk about her work on contemporary women's post-apocalyptic fiction and what post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction can tell us about our current world.

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The Squid Game effect: Why do we seek out dystopias?

RTÉ  online


Arguably, it’s a sign of the times. "Since the start of the pandemic, dystopia, apocalypse, infection films and games [have] just been hugely popular," explains Professor Susan Watkins from the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities at Leeds Beckett University, an expert in post-apocalyptic writing.

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‘Squid Game’: Have we become desensitized to hyper-violence?

The South African  online


“Since the start of the pandemic, dystopia, apocalypse, infection films and games [have] just been hugely popular,” says Professor Susan Watkins of Leeds Beckett University.

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The Squid Game effect: Why do we seek out dystopias?

The Independent  online


Have you watched Squid Game?! HAVE YOU?? Even if you haven’t (yet) the chances are you’ve already been asked this question multiple times, by multiple people, all of whom are wired from having binged every episode in a single feverish night.

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Episode 9: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

Literate Podcast  online


To round things off, we interview Susan Watkins, who is a Professor in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities at Leeds Beckett University. She draws on her expertise in Lessing’s genre-crossing oeuvre, but also in feminist theory, to discuss whether The Golden Notebook truly is a feminist novel.

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Review: 'The Testaments' – Margaret Atwood’s Sequel to the 'Handmaid’s Tale'

The Wire  online


When Margaret Atwood was writing The Handmaid’s Tale in 1984, she felt that the main premise seemed “fairly outrageous”. She wondered: “Would I be able to persuade readers that the United States had suffered a coup that had transformed an erstwhile liberal democracy into a literal-minded theocratic dictatorship?”

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Articles (5)

Critical Future Studies and Age

Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research

2021 This paper draws on cultural gerontology and literary scholarship to call for greater academic consideration of age and ageing in our imaginations of the future. Our work adds to the development of Critical Future Studies (CFS) previously published in this journal, by arguing that prevailing ageism is fuelled by specific constructions of older populations as a future demographic threat and of ageing as a future undesirable state requiring management and control.

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Reduced to curtain twitchers? Age, ageism and the careers of four women actors

Journal of Women & Aging

2021 Cultural gerontology has developed critical work around cultural representations of age and aging and their role in the reproduction of ageism. However, the cultural industries as producers and disseminators of representations remain under researched. This paper draws on a focus group with four older women actors to argue that workforce allocation and assumptions about audience demographics intersect with cultural attitudes around women’s aging to impact on older women actors’ career opportunities.

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Reimagining the Maternal in Jenny Diski’s and Doris Lessing’s Apocalyptic Imaginative Memoirs

Doris Lessing Studies

2018 First she refers to her unease with the conventional tropes and structures of the cancer diary, such as its use of the well-worn" journey" motif, the personification of cancer as an enemy to be fought or battled, and her own reluctant positioning, like a performer in a pantomime, by the recognised cultural scripts about cancer.

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Second World Life Writing: Doris Lessing’s Under My Skin

Journal of Southern African Studies

2016 The first volume of Doris Lessing’s official autobiography, Under My Skin (1994) returns her to memories of her African childhood, but also necessitates that she reassess the status of official and ‘fictionalised’ accounts of the past, especially her own story of the impact of colonisation and Empire on her family, herself and the African population in Southern Rhodesia. At the time Under My Skin appeared in the 1990s, feminist critics were working out the distinctive features of women’s autobiographical writing, and much more recently those of postcolonial life writing have been identified by critics such as Bart Moore-Gilbert (2009).

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“Summoning Your Youth at Will”: Memory, Time, and Aging in the Work of Penelope Lively, Margaret Atwood, and Doris Lessing

Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies

2013 In a 2009 interview with Sarah Crown in the Guardian newspaper, the novelist Penelope Lively remarked that “in old age you can close your eyes and summon your youth at will. As a writer it puts one at a distinct advantage.” She added: “the idea that memory is linear … is nonsense.”1 Aging is clearly a topic of increasing interest for a number of contemporary women writers, and new critical approaches to aging and gender in this field are beginning to burgeon.

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