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David Whitley


University Lecturer in English

E-mail Address


01223 747219


BA (Hons) in English Literature (Stirling University)
MPhil (Oxford University)
PGCE (Further Education)

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David Whitley had a range of teaching experiences before lecturing in Cambridge; from tutoring in medieval literature at Oxford to working with emotionally disturbed adolescents. His current teaching in the faculty focuses primarily on poetry, film, environmental education, and children’s literature. A long-term goal of David Whitley’s research has been to open up new, interdisciplinary perspectives on the way art, especially poetry and film, enables imaginative connections to be forged between human beings (particularly children) and the natural world. This represents a distinctive contribution to the emerging field of ecocriticism, with links to environmental education. His book on Disney animation has been influential in this area. Recently, he has been involved with an international project investigating children’s sense of place and connection to the environment. This has been a very productive collaboration between the Department of Social Anthropology and the Faculty of Education, with the British context focused on primary schools in the East Anglian area ( David is also co-editor of a new series of books on Children’s Literature, Culture and Cognition.

Another significant long-term research interest is in poetry. David has published on major poets, such as Carol Ann Duffy, William Wordsworth and Ted Hughes, and co-edited Poetry and Childhood (2010), with Morag Styles and Louise Joy. He is currently leading a Leverhulme funded project on ‘Poetry and Memory’ with Debbie Pullinger (, which explores the value of memorised poetry and performance.

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Academic Area/Links

  • English Literature (especially Poetry)
  • Children's Literature
  • Film (particularly Animation)
  • Ecocriticism and Environmental Education

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Research Topics

  • Ecocriticism – literature and film
  • Environmental Education
  • Children’s literature
  • Poetry

Current Research Projects

  • ‘Poetry and Memory’. Working with Debbie Pullinger (Research Associate): three year, Leverhulme funded project due to be completed at the end of 2016.
  • ‘Pathways to Understanding the Changing Climate’: a three year, AHRC funded project (2013-16). Collaboration between the Department of Social Anthropology (Principal Investigator: David Sneath) and the Faculty of Education. Research Associates: Richard Irvine (Social Anthropology) and Elsa Lee (Education)

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Course Involvement

  • BA Education Studies (Literature/Children’s Literature/Film)
  • MPhil/Ed Critical Approaches to Children's Literature
  • DPhil supervision

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Recent Publications

Books (single authored):

2012 The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation: from Snow White to WALL•E. Aldershot and Burlington, USA: Ashgate. (This is an updated paperback edition, with two new chapters, of the 2008 volume.)

2008 The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation. Aldershot and Burlington, USA: Ashgate

Books (edited):
2010 Styles, M., Joy, L., and Whitley, D. (eds.), Poetry and Childhood. Stoke on Trent: Trentham. Includes authored chapter.

Peer reviewed articles:

2014 ‘Discovering Sense through Sound’, Writing in Education. 63. Summer. (Special issue on ‘Poetry, Memory and Performance’).

2013 ‘Learning with Disney: Children’s Animation and the Politics of Innocence’, Journal of Educational Media, Memory and Society. 5.2. December.

2013 ‘Why Should Ground Doves Fly? Caribbean Poetry, Sense of Place and the Global Imaginary’, Caribbean Journal of Education. 35.2. September.

2013 Pullinger, D. and Whitley, D. ‘Sounding Sense: the Place, Problems, and Potential of Performance in Poetry’, Changing English. 20.2. Spring.

2013 ‘Ted Hughes: Poetry, Education and Memory’, Ted Hughes Society Journal. 3. January.

2007 'Childhood and Modernity: Dark Themes in Carol Ann Duffy's Poetry for Children', Children's Literature in Education. 38.2. Summer.

Chapters in international publications

2014 ‘Animation, Realism, and the Genre of Nature’ in Alexa Weik von Mossner (ed.) Moving Environments: Affect, Emotion, Ecology, and Film. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

2014 ‘The Wild and the Cute: Disney Animation and Environmental Awareness’ in Alexander Howe and Wynn Yarborough (eds.) Kidding Around: the Child in Film and Media. New York: Bloomsbury

2013 ‘Ted Hughes and Farming’ in Mark Wormald, Neil Roberts and Terry Gifford (eds.), Ted Hughes: from Cambridge to Collected. London: Palgrave.

2013 ‘Poetry Place and Environment: the Scope of Caribbean Poetry’ in Beverley Bryan and Morag Styles (eds.) Teaching Caribbean Poetry. London and New York: Routledge.

2013 Velma Pollard and David Whitley, ‘Understanding and Teaching Walcott’, in Beverley Bryan and Morag Styles (eds.) Teaching Caribbean Poetry. London and New York: Routledge.

2013 ‘Confidence and Resilience in Poetry Teaching’ in Sue Dymoke, Andrew Lambirth and Anthony Wilson (eds.) Making Poetry Matter: International research on Poetry Pedagogy. London: Bloomsbury.

2013 “You think you own whatever land you land on”: Reconfiguring Narratives of Origin and Identity in Pocahontas and Princess Mononoke’, in Lefebvre, B. (ed) Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature. London: Routledge.

2012 ‘Adolescence and the Natural World in Young Adult Fiction’ in Nikolajeva, M. and Hilton, M. (eds.), The Emergent Adult: Adolescent Literature and Culture. Aldershot and Burlington, USA: Ashgate.

2010 ‘‘Imaginary gardens with real toads in them’: Animals in Children’s Poetry’ in Poetry and Childhood. Stoke on Trent and Sterling, USA: Trentham.

2009 ‘The Natural World in Disney Animation’, in Harding, J., Thiel, E. and Waller, A. (eds.) Deep into Nature: Ecology, Environment and Children’s Literature. Lichfield: Pied Piper.

2009 ‘Hiding Places of Power: the Child as Site of Resistance in William Wordsworth’s Poetry’, in Styles, M. and Arizpe, E. (eds) Acts of Reading: Teachers, Texts and Childhood. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham.