How Speculative Fiction Conceived the Twentieth Century

  • William Francis Gillard

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In this commentary, I will examine the coherence, significance, and contribution to knowledge of my scholarly work to this point in my professional career, and demonstrate why I am in an excellent position to pursue a PhD by Publication. The idea that provides coherence to my career—my consistent contribution to literary criticism—is in reclaiming marginalized voices and drawing new writers into the scholarly conversation. Native American fiction was just beginning to blossom when I began to publish articles on writers such as Leslie Marmon Silko, Simon Ortiz, and Sherman Alexie. Geary Hobson had been largely ignored by literature scholars, and my literary biography brought attention to his writing. In working on speculative writers during the literary Modernist period, I have argued that important avenues of inquiry had been closed for too long and that writers of speculative fiction were worthy of study and inclusion in discussions of the era. Related to that is my work editing The Routledge Anthology of Climate Fiction (2024), a volume that argues that the roots of cli-fi extend deeper into the past than is commonly accepted by scholars in the field. Future publications on Robert Bloch and Evelyn Underhill will argue for their reconsideration by scholars, Bloch as a pioneer in psychological horror and Underhill as a neglected writer of weird fiction. The coherence to my career, then, is in the consistent push to draw voices in from the margins and to expand the scholarly conversation.
This commentary is organized into three sections that track my career chronologically, more or less, each linked by a common thread that runs through just about all of my scholarly pursuits and goes a long way toward defining my career. The first section focuses on articles published during the first decade of the twenty-first century that focused on Native American literature, offering context for writers who were only then becoming the subjects of scholarly attention. The second section discusses my attempts to place the work of World War I soldier- poets Julian Grenfell and Wilfred Owen in ecocritical contexts. My most recent work—the subject of the third and final section—asserts that any serious discussion of literary Modernism must include the fantastic stories that proliferated during that era because in many cases speculative writers arrived first to the ideas that subsequently defined the broader movement; and because only in speculative fiction is the radical core of the movement allowed free rein. In what follows I have, for ease of reference, added references in square brackets to the corresponding outputs in my Scholarly Document.
Date of Award23 Feb 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorMark Frost (Supervisor) & Paraic Finnerty (Supervisor)

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