Centre for Studies in Literature


Ms Debbie Parker-Kinch

  • Role Title: PhD Student
  • Address: Milldam, Burnaby Road, Portsmouth, Hants PO1 3AS
  • Telephone:
  • Email: debbie.parker-kinch@port.ac.uk
  • Department: School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies
  • Faculty: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


‌My academic background is in Literary Studies and Women’s History and I am an experienced lecturer in these fields in the Further and Higher Education sectors.  My research focuses on nineteenth-century Britain; I am particularly interested in exploring the lived experiences of women in this period and how they negotiated dominant discourses about their gender.  I use as my sources a broad range of textual representations of women’s voices, spanning across public and private, literary and non-literary sources, with a particular focus on poetry, letters and journals.


My PhD research is a biographical study of Bessie Rayner Parkes (later Belloc, 1829-1925) who was a pioneering women’s rights campaigner in the 1850s and 1860s, and a writer of journalism, essays, memoirs and poetry.  The large archive of Parkes’ personal papers (held at Girton College Archive, Cambridge) provides, together with her published writings, a wealth of source material for exploring her life, sense of self and her contributions to ideas about women’s rights and roles in Victorian and Edwardian Britain.  Her extensive networks of personal and professional friendships with women in literary, political and campaigning circles make her an valuable subject for studying changing attitudes towards women during her lifetime.  My research takes a thematic approach to Parkes’ biography, to enable me to explore her life as a public campaigner, her ambitions and achievements as a literary writer and the significance of religion in her life (she converted to Roman Catholicism in 1864).

Linking together the various aspects of this biography is an exploration of the factors which lay behind Parkes’ determination to bring about social and political change to improve women’s lives.  I am interested in how her views on the ‘Women Question’ were shaped and reshaped at different stages in her life.  Tied to this is an exploration of Parkes’ individual sense of self, as evidenced in her private writings.  I look in particular at her shifting conceptions of the way in which she, as a woman, could attain personal success and feel she was living a purposeful life, first through public campaigning and publishing poetry and later in her private worlds of family, friends and church.  I seek to investigate the relationships between Parkes’ various public and private identities, to place them within their socio-historical and cultural contexts.  Thus this study of an individual woman also sheds broader light on women’s activism and writing in the nineteenth century.

PhD thesis title: Seeking a ‘steadfast aim’: a cultural historical biography of Bessie Rayner Parkes (1829-1925)

Research interests

  • Nineteenth-century literature, particularly poetry
  • Women’s history, including the history of feminism
  • Women’s writing
  • The theory and practice of life-writing

Research Clusters

  • CSL: Body Politics
  • CEISR: Women and Gender Studies