Dr. Emily Holman

Areas of specialization:

Literature in English; Form and Content; Literary Criticism; Philosophy of Literature; Aesthetics (philosophy); Aesthetics (theology)

Areas of competence:

Translation Theory; Linguistics; Moral Philosophy; Ethics



My work as a Polonsky fellow focuses on the ‘spaces’ that literary language can ‘open up’ in and for the human mind.  Throughout my time as an academic, my research has concentrated on the relevance of literature to human living. My current research attends to how literary language might widen and deepen our modes of perceiving and conceiving, ultimately also influencing our emotional and experiential realities. I work on how literary language might accomplish this ‘opening’, as well as on why the fact that it does so is humanly significant. My Polonsky postdoctoral fellowship began in 2017, and my project is entitled ‘Language-scapes: Literature and the Mind’s Lifeworld. An investigation of literature’s relevance to human “knowing”’.

I completed my doctorate in literature at the University of Oxford in 2017. My doctoral thesis was entitled: ‘Literature, language, and the human: a theoretical enquiry, with special reference to the work of F.R. Leavis’. The thesis proposes a theory of literature’s human relevance in literary terms, developing hints in the critical practice of twentieth century literary critic F.R. Leavis. It examines how literary texts can be humanly relevant in a manner that depends on their literary merit, and does so in three stages, interrogating: the way literary texts operate; the role literary language plays in thinking; and the interaction of literature and morality. The thesis has two, related, aims: to reconceptualise literature’s relation to human living, and to offer a recharacterisation of Leavis’s literary criticism, with the investigation of aspects of Leavis’s practice forming part of the more fundamental enquiry regarding the nature of literature’s human significance.


  • ‘“My poor Jude—how you’ve missed everything!”: Reading Ignatian discernment in Jude the Obscure’. The Thomas Hardy Journal 2017.
  • ‘Ian McEwan and the Empathic Imagination: Atonement fifteen years on’, Literary Imagination, vol. 18 (3): 315-324 (2016).
  • ‘Contemplation as a Mode of Knowing: Leavis & Literary Analysis’, POETICA: an International Journal of Linguistic-Literary Studies. Special issue: Coleridge, Contemplation and Cultural Practice, vol. 85, ed. Eamonn Wall and Saeko Yoshikawa (2016).
  • ‘Leavis and Newman’s Grammar of Assent’, The Literary Criterion. Special issue: Leavis and Religion (Mysore, April 2016), ed. Emily Holman (Mysore, 2016).
  • ‘In Defence of Moral Seriousness’, The Cambridge Quarterly, vol. 44 (4): 341-353 (2015).