Heritage, Tourism, and Lesbian & Queer Identification: Anne Lister and 21st century ‘Lister Sisters’.

This project will examine the interaction of travel and sexuality in the writings of the early 19th century diarist, Anne Lister, often referred to as the ‘first modern lesbian’, and will explore how and why Lister has captured the imagination of 21st century queer communities, inspiring many of their members to read her work and retrace her journeys. 

Start date
1 October 2021
3 years
Application deadline
Funding source
The University of Surrey, Project-led Studentship Award.
Funding information
  • Full UK tuition fee covered  
  • Stipend at £15,285 pa (2020/2021) 
  • Research Training Support Grant of £1000 pa 
  • Personal Computer (provided by the department) 


The highly successful BBC/HBO series Gentleman Jack (broadcast 2019; dir: Sally Wainwright) is based on the UNESCO-recognised early nineteenth-century diaries of Anne Lister of Halifax. Lister, who is often described as the ‘first modern lesbian', harboured ambitions to be a travel writer (she considered publishing under the pseudonym 'Viator'). The series has had a positive impact on Lister’s former home, Shibden Hall, now owned by Calderdale Council, which has seen a threefold increase in its visitors since the broadcast. It has also inspired fans to read Lister’s writings and to travel to a range of sites visited by Lister in her own lifetime. 

In the light of this, this interdisciplinary studentship will explore how both historical and contemporary patterns of travel and tourism are related to gender and sexuality-based marginalisation and representation.  

The studentship will explore Lister's accounts of her travels and her public and private identities, paying close attention to the intersection of her sexual and gendered identities with 19th century ideas of tourism. Alongside literary and historical analysis, the project will adopt a sociological approach, examining the motivations of members of the contemporary queer community retracing Lister’s travels almost two centuries later.  

This project has a supervisory team of three from the School of English and Languages and the Department of Sociology: 

Professor Diane Watt has expertise in lesbian literature, history and film from the early period to the contemporary. 

Dr Katherine Hubbard has expertise in histories of social sciences and in sexuality, gender, LGBT studies and queer history. 

Dr Carl Thompson has expertise in travel writing, including women travel writers in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Eligibility criteria

Applicants should have a good undergraduate (minimum 2: 1 or equivalent) and an MA/MSc in a relevant humanities or social science discipline (e.g. English Literature or Sociology) or other related discipline (e.g. History, Gender Studies). Preference may be given to candidates who can demonstrate a background in relevant interdisciplinary research.

This studentship is only avaliable for UK applicants. 

IELTS requirements: 6.5 or above with a minimum of 6.0 in each component and 7.0 in the writing component (or equivalent) .

How to apply

Applications can be made through the English Literature PhD programme page at the University of Surrey. Please state the project title and supervisor clearly on all applications. 

Application deadline

Contact details


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