Dr Eluned Michelle Louise Summers-Bremner

BA(Hons) (Waikato), MA (Otago), PhD (Canterbury)

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Senior Lecturer


  • Senior Lecturer
  • PhD Adviser

I trained for a dance career prior to becoming an academic. Most of my graduate study was undertaken at the University of Otago with Professor Janet Wilson, followed by a transfer to the University of Canterbury in the last year of my PhD. Prior to returning to my home discipline in 2005, I worked in one of The University of Auckland’s interdisciplinary programmes for ten years.

Research | Current

  • Medieval literature and culture
  • Modernist literature and culture
  • Contemporary literature
  • Trauma and cultural memory
  • War and conflict
  • Generalist history
  • Psychoanalysis, clinical and theoretical

My research interests are in medieval literature and culture, modernist literature and culture, contemporary literature, trauma and cultural memory, war and conflict, literature and science, and the clinical practice and theories of psychoanalysis, especially the Lacanian field. In 2004, with Dr Lucille Holmes, I set up the first NZ seminar for psy-professionals, academic staff and graduate students interested in the work of Jacques Lacan, which now runs as the Centre for Lacanian Analysis and in whose activities I continue to participate.

My PhD was on the culture of affective piety in fourteenth-century European visionary texts. I focused on The Book of Margery Kempe, but also considered texts by other visionaries and devotional writers in England, Sweden, Italy, Hungary and the Low Countries (Belgium). My books Insomnia: A Cultural History (Reaktion, 2008, translated into Japanese, Korean, Italian, Greek, Romanian and Turkish) and A History of Wandering (Reaktion, forthcoming 2017, see below) have happily led me back to the medieval period and to the history and writing practices of ancient societies that were so important to medieval people. Chaucer’s early dream poem The Book of the Duchess plays an important role in Insomnia,while a discussion of medieval and early modern romance is integral to the ‘Errancy’ chapter of Wandering. My historical work has also led me to research and write about literature from a range of other periods and places, including medieval and early modern devotional Indian poetry, eighteenth-century Japanese tales of the supernatural, and twentieth-century Chinese writing (in translation).

In 2010 I was awarded a three-year Royal Society NZ Marsden Fund grant to research and write a book called Beyond the Blitz: Trauma and British Fiction, 1939-1950, a reading of such British wartime writers as Elizabeth Bowen, Patrick Hamilton, James Hanley, Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Green, in the context of the wartime diaries collected by the pioneering social research group Mass Observation. My next book for Reaktion is Sea of Feelings, a history of how human beings have used the sea, in different times and places, to understand and represent human emotions. Ranging widely in world history and exploring novels, stories, films, paintings, and musical works as well as a broad range of historical sources and accounts of sea events, the book’s aim is to better understand the causes, contradictions, and future implications of our long history of emotional involvement with the world’s oceans.
A History of Wandering. Reaktion Books, 2018.
Throughout history people have wandered: in their thoughts, in search of love or religious insight, as the result of demonic or divine affliction, or simply as a way of life. Other agents and beings also wander: the planets, demons, ships, traumatic events and credit rates to name a few. In seven chapters (Errancy, Origin, Others, Story, Sorrow, Chance, and Home) this study tracks wandering from the ancient world to the present, seeking to comprehend its role in undermining, and supporting, social norms. As a recurrent form for human imagining as well as a physical activity, wandering may indicate what different cultures and eras share structurally, and improve our grasp of the principles of human belonging. Whether through generative error, serendipitous discovery, creative daydreaming or the oscillatory pattern of financial development – where credit wanders virtually according to cycles in which commodities or money are most mobile – wandering's elusiveness endures, and thus ensures its continuing fascination.


'Shock Lit: The Early Fiction.' In The Cambridge Companion to Ian McEwan, ed. Dominic Head. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019, pp. 14-28.

'Altered Countrysides: Paul Nash, David Jones and Eric Ravilious in Wartime.' In Rural Modernity in Britain: A Critical Introduction, ed. Kristin Bluemel and Michael McCluskey. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018, pp. 225-38..

'"Drinking and Drinking and Screaming": Wartime Sociality in Patrick Hamilton's The Slaves of Solitude.' In Long Shadows: The Second World War in British Fiction and Film, ed. Petra Rau. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2016, pp. 81-101.

'A "Common Humanity": Reliquary Modes in Piers Plowman.' Paper presented at Sixth International Piers Plowman Society Conference, University of Washington, Seattle, USA, 23-26 July 2015.

Ian McEwan: Sex, Death and History. New York: Cambria Press, 2014. 9781604978704

'David Jones and the Art of Living.' Paper presented at Aftershock: Post-traumatic Cultures Since the Great War Conference, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 22-24 May 2013.

'Negative Feelings: The Death Drive in Piers Plowman.' Paper presented at 48th Annual Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Western Michigan University, USA, 9-12 May 2013.

'Tracking the Untrackable: Mass Observation Diarists and Directive Respondents on 'Not thnking' and 'Not feeling' during World War II.' Paper presented at Mass Observation Anniversaries Conference, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK, 4-6 July 2012.

'"The war was on their nerves": Love and Hate in Patrick Hamilton's The Slaves of Solitude and Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day.' Paper presented at 127th Modern Languages Association Convention, 20C Literature Division, Seattle, USA, 5-8 January 2012.

'"Another World Than This": Muriel Spark's Postwar Investigations.' Yearbook of English Studies, 42 (2012), 151-67.

Teaching | Current

ENGLISH 356 The Modern Novel

ENGLISH 781 Research Project

Postgraduate supervision

Because a good deal of my earlier academic work occurred in an interdisciplinary context, I have supervised theses and dissertations on a wide range of topics, including systems theory and ecocritical readings of early twentieth-century poetry, melancholy in contemporary fiction, topographies of desire in contemporary science fiction, early modern Italian painting, costume drama on film and a range of performance and practical theatre projects on topics ranging from writing the opera libretto to coolness, homelessness, and telematic culture. My first doctoral student was awarded her degree in 2010.

Currently I am willing and able to supervise students with interests in trauma, war and conflict, literature and psychoanalysis (though not the American ego-psychology schools), some topics in the nineteenth century, British, European or American modernist literature early or late, contemporary literature from Britain, Europe and the U.S. (including the twentieth-century Scottish writer Muriel Spark), projects that investigate literature as a historical resource, and certain projects in the literature and culture of the European fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, as well as some comparative work. I am also happy to supervise projects which draw on the work of mathematician and philosopher Alain Badiou, and would especially welcome enquiries from students who have interests in the issues raised by the work of the Anglo-German writer W. G. Sebald.

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Summers-Bremner, E. M. (2015). A "common humanity": Reliquary modes in Piers Plowman. Paper presented at International Piers Plowman Society Conference, Seattle. 23 July - 26 July 2015.
  • Summers-Bremner, E. M. (2014). Ian McEwan: Sex, Death and History. Amherst, New York, USA: Cambria Press. Related URL.
  • Summers-Bremner, E. M. (2013). David Jones and the art of living. Paper presented at Aftershock Conference: Post-traumatic Cultures Since the Great War, Copenhagen, Denmark. 22 May - 24 May 2013.
  • Summers-Bremner, E. M. (2013). Negative feelings: The death drive in Piers Plowman. Paper presented at 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan. 9 May - 12 May 2013.
  • Summers-Bremner, E. M. (2012). Tracking the untrackable: MO [Mass Observation] diarists and directive respondents on "not thinking" and "not feeling" during World War Two. Paper presented at Mass Observation Anniversaries Conference, Brighton, UK. 4 July - 6 July 2012.
  • Summers-Bremner, E. (2012). 'The war was on their nerves': Love and hate in Patrick Hamilton's The slaves of solitude and Elizabeth Bowen's The heat of the day. Paper presented at Modern Language Association (MLA) Convention, Seattle. 5 January - 8 January 2012.
  • Summers-Bremner, E. M. (2012). 'Another World than This': Muriel Spark's Postwar Investigations. Yearbook of English Studies, 42, 151-167. 10.5699/yearenglstud.42.2012.0151

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 6, Room 604
New Zealand