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Noreen Masud

       Academic      |      Author      |      Broadcaster

About Me

I’m Noreen Masud – a Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature at the University of Bristol, and an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker. My research covers all kinds of bases: flatness, spivs, puppets, leftovers, earworms, footnotes, rhymes, hymns, surprises, folk songs, colours, superstitions. I work mostly on twentieth-century literature, but I make forays into Victorian and Romantic literature too. 

For more on my memoir A Flat Place, and to order, please click here.



Hamish Hamilton, 2023

Part-travelogue through Britain’s flat landscapes, part-memoir, A Flat Place investigates how flat spaces might give shape and succour to complex trauma. It's been reviewed in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, the New Statesman, the Chicago Review of Books, the i paper, Prospect, the Big IssueHyphen, and the Arts Desk. I have written associated essays for Salon and Psychology Today.

4R_A Flat Place_Galley.jpg

Melville House Press, 2023

A Flat Place is published in the USA by Melville House Press (order here); if you're in Canada, you can order via Indigo here.


Hard Language frames an original approach to the enigmatic poetry and novels of Stevie Smith (1902-1971), and by extension to a range of twentieth-century women writers, by drawing up a new theory of the aphorism, a form which has received limited critical treatment in literary and philosophical studies. The monograph suggests that aphorism can represent a tool for the social management of emotion, offering an opportunity to make and simultaneously to undercut a dramatic communication.


Flat Landscapes in Twentieth-Century Literature

(in progress)

My academic book on flat landscapes, in progress, focuses on D. H. Lawrence, Willa Cather and Gertrude Stein. Small parts of the manuscript have been published in Textual Practice (on Lawrence and on contemporary poetry) and in Twentieth-Century Literature (my bridge-piece between my first and second books, on flatness in Stevie Smith). I've also discussed my project on podcasts: High Theory and Moveable Type.


Most of my work falls within one of these four major research areas.



My first major research project was on aphorism in Stevie Smith. The book based on my doctorate is out with OUP, called Hard Language: Stevie Smith and the Aphorism


This is my current project. My memoir A Flat Place is published by Hamish Hamilton and Melville House, and I'm working on an academic book as well. Work on flatness is out in Twentieth Century Literature and Textual Practice.


This is my third project, still in the planning stages. Always happy to hear from possible collaborators! You can listen to a broadcast I made on puppets, for an initial idea of my thinking.


I'm always working with an eye to or on nonsense literature, with work published and forthcoming on Edward Lear, modernist nonsense and George Orwell.



I'm an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker, and love sharing my research on BBC Radio 3 - here are some of my programmes.

BBC 3 Free Thinking: Daljit Nagra & Val McDermid; Reynard the Fox

14 October 2020

On medieval trickster myth, with Shahidha Bari and Anne Louise Avery.

BBC 3 Free Thinking: Dada and the power of nonsense

23 July 2020

On George Orwell and the absurd, with Shahidha Bari, Jade French, Jade Montserrat and Lottie Whalen.

BBC 3 Sunday Feature: The Aphorism Now: Failing with Style

31 January 2021.

Sunday Feature, on aphorism as a queer and female form.

BBC 3 Free Thinking: Breakdown: Horatio Clare, Stevie Smith

3 March 2021

On Stevie Smith, aphorism and my book! With Laurence Scott.

BBC 3 The Essay:
In Praise of Flatness

 30 April 2021

On the feelings that flat landscapes make available to us.

BBC 3 Sunday Feature: The Puppet's Gaze

13 June 2021

BBC 3 The Essay: The Sounds of Tyne: Benwell Temple

23 March 2022

From a five-part series on Hadrian's Wall in Newcastle. On Benwell Roman Temple, the West End of Newcastle, and mutual aid (donate here to West End Mutual Aid)

BBC 4 In Our Time, ‘Stevie Smith’

16 February 2023

BBC 4 Word of Mouth, ‘A Load of Nonsense’

18 April 2023

With Michael Rosen. This episode also received a write-up on the BBC website, available here.

BBC 3 Free Thinking: Nature Memoirs

1 June 2023

With Patrick Barkham and Kapka Kassabova. Recorded live at Hay Festival on 29 May 2023.


Journal Articles

Cambridge Quarterly (2016) 45 (3): 244-267.

Essays in Criticism (2018) 64 (4): 441-465.

With Frances White, Women: A Cultural Review (2018) 29 (3-4): 290-305.

Women: A Cultural Review (2018) 29 (3-4): 306-318.

Review of English Studies (2019) 70 (296): 732-751.

Victorian Poetry (2020) 58 (2): 207-220

Twentieth-Century Literature (2021) 67 (2): 215–234.

Textual Practice (2021)

Modern Philology (2022) 119 (3): 421-41.

Textual Practice (2022)

Book Chapters

‘British poetry, 1900-1950’

The Year’s Work in English Studies, 2018-2021

‘Collecting Stevie Smith’s Aphorisms’

In Aphoristic Modernity: 1890 to the Present, ed. Michael Shallcross and Kostas Boyiopoulos (Brill: 2019).

‘Wild as a Cat: Stevie Smith and Sylvia Plath’

In Sylvia Plath in Context, ed. Tracy Brain (Cambridge University Press: 2019)

‘Monumental Silences’

In On Commemoration: Global Reflections upon Remembering War, ed. Catherine Gilbert, Kate McLoughlin and Niall Munro (Peter Lang, 2020)

‘Shady Pleasures: Modernist Nonsense’

In The Edinburgh Companion to Nonsense, ed. Anna Barton and James Williams (Edinburgh University Press, 2021).

‘George Orwell and the Absurd’

In The Oxford Handbook to George Orwell, ed. Nathan Waddell (Oxford University Press; contracted and due 2022).


Other Work

Films, blogs, other writings.

Public Writing

I've written for Aeon (here) and for the Times Literary Supplement here, here and here.


The Blue from Heaven

I advised Professor Suzie Hanna (Norwich University of the Arts), on an animated film based on the Stevie Smith poem ‘The Blue from Heaven’. The animation has been shown at a range of poetry film festivals throughout 2019 and 2020, was nominated for ‘Best Animated Short’ and ‘Best Short Short’ at High Peak Independent Film Festival, and won ‘Best Editor’ at the 2019 ‘Lit on Film’ festival.



My blog is called Parrots Ate Them All. I update when I have time, which is almost never.



Find me at, or @NoreenMasud on Twitter. Or my agent Matthew Turner at

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