Dr Niamh Downing

Job title
Head of English & Writing
01326 370409 Ext: 5409

I joined the School of Writing & Journalism at Falmouth as a lecturer in December 2012. I am currently head of English & Writing, and before that course coordinator/ senior lecturer for undergraduate English and Creative Writing courses. Prior to this I taught English at Falmouth (associate lecturer) and University of Exeter (seminar tutor), and worked in heritage/archive education for a number of years. My research field is 20th and 21st century literature, and I have a particular interest in British and Irish poetry. My work is also situated in the growing field of literary geographies, or concerns with space, place and landscape. I completed my doctoral research at University of Exeter in 2013. My thesis examines models of excavation in contemporary poetry, specifically in the work of Geoffrey Hill, Ciaran Carson, Geraldine Monk, and Alice Oswald.

In March 2014 I co-organised the Haunted Landscapes symposium in association with ASLE-UKI, with Dr Ruth Heholt (conference lead). In July I also led the Cosmographies Conference, supported by the British Interplanetary Society, which brought together scholars in the arts, humanities and space science from around the globe, to explore the outer space as a rich source of cultural production.

I am principal investigator for Orkney: Beside the Ocean of Time an AHRC Science in Culture funded project that investigates deep time and its relationship to landscape change. I am also co-Investigator on the AHRC Connected Communities project Telling the Bees which runs from March 2015 - September 2016 (Principle Investigator - Dr Deborah Maxwell; Co-Investigator - Dr Toby Pillatt). 

The following two papers were published from the Telling the Bees project:

  • Maxwell, Deborah, Liz Edwards, Toby Pillatt, and Niamh Downing. 2016. ‘Beebots-a-lula, where's my honey?: design fictions and beekeeping’ NordiCHI '16 Proceedings of the 9th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction. New York: ACM. 79.
  • Maxwell, Deborah, Liz Edwards, Toby Pillatt, and Niamh Downing. 2016. 'Stories in a Beespoon: Exploring Future Folklore through Design' in P. Lloyd and E. Bohemia (eds) Proceedings of DRS2016: Design + Research + Society – Future-Focussed Thinking, Vol. IX: 3485-3502.

I am interested in pedagogic research and development in the subject area of English and Writing. In 2013 I worked with learning technologists and a doctoral student at Falmouth on a micro-research project that examined the effectiveness of virtual field trips for teaching and learning in the field of Creative Writing and English. In 2011, I was jointly awarded a Learning and Teaching Enhancement Grant with Kym Martindale at Falmouth to investigate the value of using archives to enhance teaching and learning in the field of creative writing. The outputs of the project, Out of the Box, include conference papers, articles and a blog.


YearQualificationAwarding body
PhD in English
University of Exeter
Masters in English (Distinction & Dean's Commendation)
University of Exeter
BA(Hons) English with Media Studies (I)
Falmouth University

Research interests

Research interests and expertise

My research is in 20th and 21st century literature, particularly poetry and its relationship to space, place, landscape and ecological concerns. I have published on literary ecologies and geographies, and I am currently working on a monograph which is concerned with forms of excavation and the archaeological imagination in contemporary poetry. Other research interests include: geographies of outer space in contemporary literature/film; geomorphology and contemporary poetry; space, place and ecology in digital games; the use of archives in scholarly and creative practice.

Research centre and group affiliations

RANE Research Group

Research topics

20th Century Poetry and Literature
Contemporary Poetry
Literary Landscapes

Research outputs

Publications and research outputs

Book Chapter

Downing, Niamh (2016) 'Tender Bodies': Embracing the Ecological Uncanny in Jim Crace’s Being Dead. In: Haunted Landscapes: Super-Nature and the Environment. Place, Memory, Affect . Roman & Littlefield, London. ISBN 9781783488810 (In Press)

Downing, N. (2013) "Fritillary Fever": Cultivating the self and gardening the world in the writing of Clara Coltman Vyvyan. In: Women in Transit through Literary Liminal Spaces. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK, pp. 166-179. ISBN 978-1137330468 Item not available from this repository.


Heholt, Ruth and Downing, Niamh, eds. (2016) Haunted Landscapes. Place, Memory, Affect . Roman & Littlefield, London. ISBN 9781783488810 (In Press)



Invited Lecture. MSc Space Studies, International Space University, Strasbourg, France. November 2016.


Conference Organisation: Cosmographies (with Dr Dario Llinares and Dr Sarah Arnold). International Conference supported by The British Interplanetary Society, 24-25 July 2014


Conference Paper. Towards a Literary Geography of Outer Space. Cosmographies Conference. Falmouth University, UK.


Symposium. Co-convener (with Dr Ruth Heholt, Lead Academic) of 'Haunted Landscapes: Nature, Super-Nature and the Environment', an ASLE-UKI symposium to be hosted at Falmouth University in March 2014.


Conference Paper. Mary Butts: From Tebel Vos. Haunted Landscapes Symposium, Falmouth University, UK.


Research Bites 2011-14. Convener of staff and postgraduate research forum.


Conference Paper. 'Lens grinders in space': Literary Geographies of the Extra-Terrestrial. Biannual British and Irish Contemporary Poetry Conference. Manchester University, UK.


Talk. Collaborating with the Dead: Spectres of Lyric Landscape in the Poetry of Geraldine Monk. Research Bites 2012-13.


Conference Paper. Out of the Box: Using Archives to Enhance Teaching and Learning in the Field of Creative Writing. Education in a Changing Environment Conference. University of Salford, UK.


Conference Paper. Ton Kairon Exagorazomenoi: Redeeming Time in the Poetry of Geoffrey Hill. Biannual British and Irish Contemporary Poetry Conference. Queens University Belfast, UK.


Conference Paper. Critical Anaemia: The Supplement of Irony in Iain Sinclair’s Edge of the Orison. New Grounds Conference. University of Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Externally funded research grants information

Year startingYear endingProject titleFunderValueCollaboratorsHESA Category
Orkney: Beside the Ocean of Time

Dr. Carina Fearnley (Co-I, UCL), Dr. Lourdes Lopez Merino (Co-I, Brunel), Dr. Richard Irvine (Co-I, Cambridge), Dr. Tony Krus (Co-I, Glasgow)

1 DIUS Research Councils
Telling the Bees

Dr. Deborah Maxwell (PI, Edinburgh College of Art); Dr. Toby Pillatt (Co-I, University of East Anglia)

1 DIUS Research Councils
European Social Fund

University of Exeter

6 EU government bodies

Research students

Current research students

  • Duncan Yeates – John Harris’s Visions from Carn Brea: Romanticism and Industrialisation in the Poetry of John
  • Steph Comley – Game-based techniques and collaborative learning between arts students in Higher Education
  • Carolyn Arnold – Storytelling to promote pro-environmental behaviour in Cornish businesses


Areas of teaching

20th & 21st Century Literature
Renaissance Literature
Literature and Environment
Digital Games Cultures
Cultural Theory
Conflict in Literature
Utopian Writing
Research Methods

Courses taught

The Knowing Self (Renaissance Literature) (2011-)
To the Millennium ... (20th and 21st Century Literature) (2011-)
Introduction to Literary Studies I (2012-)
American Literature (2014-)
English in the Workplace (2014-)
Dissertation Supervision
Introduction to Literary Studies II (2012-14)
Digital Games Cultures (2011–14)
Representing Utopia (2010-13)
Conflict and Catastrophe (2011-12)
Cultural Theory and the Politics of the Popular (2012-13)

Policy engagement within Cornwall

2014 - Developing academic working relationships with Goonhilly Earth Station (GES) following Cosmographies Conference visit in summer 2014.
2011 - I worked on an internally funded pedagogic research project with Cornwall Record Office, which investigated the value of using archives in creative writing practice (teaching and learning).

Professional engagement