Dr Emma Parker

Associate Professor (Reader) in Postwar and Contemporary Literature


Dr Emma Parker is an Associate Professor in Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature, focusing on women and gay writers and issues related to gender and sexuality. Her research is based on the premise that literature has the power to reveal previously unseen truths about the world and inspire social change.

Dr Parker’s research on playwright Joe Orton revived interest in this working class, Leicester-born playwright and gay icon whose provocative black comedies satirised the Establishment and helped to define British counterculture in the 1960s. To mark the 50th anniversary of Orton’s three major plays and his death in 1967, Dr Parker produced a series of prize-winning events, exhibitions and educational resources. Dr Parker’s research has helped to enhance the public understanding of gay history, and has brought Orton’s work to new audiences.


Topics covered in my work include:

  • feminism
  • queer
  • gender, sexuality, race and class
  • Thatcherism

I led the AHRC and Arts Council-funded project Joe Orton: 50 Years On (2014-2020), which commemorated the 50th anniversary of Orton's three major plays and his death in 1967. This includes Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs), a collaboration with film-maker Chris Shepherd and winner of a Saboteur Award (2018).

I have co-curated two exhibitions on Joe Orton:

Read my essay on Loot

Explore my close reading of the opening pages of Loot on British Library's Discovering Literature


Books, Editions, and Edited Collections

  • Co-editor, with Mary Eagleton, The History of British Women's Writing, 1970-Present (Palgrave, 2015), 'indispensable' (Elaine Showalter); 'the key companion text for anyone studying women's studies, women's writing, contemporary culture and writing' (Patricia Waugh).
  • Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane, 50th anniversary edition (Bloomsbury/Methuen Drama, 2014). '... has an amazing intro' (Emma Freud, 'Loose Ends', Radio 4, 14 June 2014).
  • Guest Editor, Textual Practice 25.4 (August 2011), special issue on Contemporary Women's Writing and Queer Diasporas.
  • Guest Editor, Contemporary Women's Writing 3.1 (June 2009), special issue on Diaspora.
  • Editor, Contemporary British Women Writers. Essays and Studies Vol. 56. (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2004).
  • Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum: A Reader's Guide (London: Continuum, 2002).

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

  • 'A Comedy of Horrors: Thatcherism in What a Carve Up!' in Jonathan Coe: Contemporary British Satire, ed Philip Tew (Bloomsbury, 2018), pp. 67-79; 'the best essay on Carve Up! ...essential reading for any student of
  • Coe' (Anthony Walker-Cook, Notes and Queries, 2019).
  • 'Joe Orton and Shakespeare: Collage, Class and Queerness', Studies in Theatre and Performance, special issue on Joe Orton, 37.2, Summer 2017, pp. 237-268.
  • 'A Queer Ear: Joe Orton and Music’, Art & Music, Spring 2017, no. 37 special issue: The Life and Times of Joe Orton, pp. 44-48 (click here to read it).
  • 'Queers, Gals, Chaps, Chicks, and Lads' in The Oxford History of the Novel, Vol. 7, British and Irish Fiction Since 1940, eds. Peter Boxall and Bryan Cheyette (Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 328-346.
  • 'Re-Envisioning Feminist Fiction' in The Cambridge Companion to British Fiction Since 1945, ed. David James (Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 79-94.
  • 'Contemporary Lesbian Fiction: Into the Twenty-First Century' in The Cambridge Companion to Lesbian Literature, ed. Jodi Medd (Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 204-218.
  • 'Introduction' (co-authored with Mary Eagleton), The History of British Women's Writing, 1970-Present (Palgrave, 2015), pp. 1-20.
  • 'Male Pregnancy and Queer Utopia in Paul Magrs's Could it be Magic?', Textual Practice 28.6 (2014), pp. 1035-1056.
  • 'Introduction', Joe Orton, Entertaining Mr Sloane (Bloomsbury/Methuen Drama, 2014), pp. 1-25.
  • 'An Interview with Nick Bagnall', Joe Orton, Entertaining Mr Sloane (Bloomsbury/Methuen Drama, 2014), pp. 27-33.


I have externally examined 11 PhDs: Brunel, 2020; Melbourne, 2019; Southampton, Edinburgh, Cardiff, 2016; Durham, 2012; Stirling, 2011; Swansea, 2010 and 2008; Loughborough, 2007; and Sheffield Hallam, 2003.

I have supervised 11 PhD dissertations to successful completion on topics such as Doris Lessing, Sarah Waters, Margaret Walker, American women's science fiction, queer South Asian fiction, Biblical revisionism in contemporary women's writing, the single woman in the 1950s, women in Saudi Arabia and gender in comics.

I welcome applications from students wishing to work in the following areas:

  • contemporary women's writing
  • contemporary British fiction
  • queer fiction
  • masculinity
  • the 1980s
  • Joe Orton




Press and media

  • BBC Radio 4 'Front Row' on 'A Queer Ear: Joe Orton and Music', 23 April 2019 (podcast, starting at 21:40)
  • 'What the Butler Saw: Joe Orton’s savage satire on rape is as relevant now as it was in 1969', article for The Conversation, 4 March 2019
  • LGBT+ History Month Lecture at the University of Newcastle, 'Seeing homosexuality in Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw', 19 February 2019 (podcast)
  • BBC Radio Leicester, Martin Ballard Show: interviewed about winning a Saboteur Award, 22 May 2018.
  • BBC Radio 4 'Front Row' special on Joe Orton, 11 August 2017
  • BBC Radio Leicester, Martin Ballard Show, interviewed about my Arts Council-funded Joe Orton creative writing competition with winner Bryony Adshead (Derby High School) and Pearl Andrews-Horrigan
  • (Queen’s College, Taunton), 10 August 2017.
  • BBC Radio Leicester, Ben Jackson Show, interviewed about the launch of a Joe Orton Creative Writing Competition, 12 June 2017.
  • Consultant, The Secret Diary of Sue Townsend (Aged 68 3/4), BBC Two, 15 October, 2016. Winner of the RTS Scotland award for best Documentary and Specialist Factual 2017.
  • BBC Radio Leicester, Graham Wright's Weekend Breakfast Show, discussion of Jake Arnott's BBC Radio 3 adaptation of Orton's unpublished story 'The Visa Affair', 8 October, 2016
  • BBC Radio Leicester, Graham Wright's Weekend Breakfast Show, discussion about 'An Evening with Kenneth Cranham' at Curve Theatre and a weekend of events to celebrate Joe Orton's Loot, 24 September, 2016.


  • BA, University of Birmingham
  • PhD, University of Birmingham
  • Senior Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy

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