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Dr Helen Williams

Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Programme Leader for BA Hons English Literature

Department: Humanities

Helen is Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature with special interests in literature of the mid-eighteenth century, its professional contexts and print culture.

Helen received her BA from Northumbria University and her MA from Durham University before returning to Northumbria to complete a PhD in collaboration with the Laurence Sterne Trust at Shandy Hall. She joined the faculty at Northumbria in 2012 where she is now Senior Lecturer in English. She works closely with the Laurence Sterne Trust at Shandy Hall, the National Trust at Seaton Delaval Hall, and organises public engagement events based on eighteenth-century theatre.

Campus Address

Office: Lipman 024

0191 243 7507


B.A. (Northumbria), M.A. (Dunelm), PhD (Northumbria)

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

Helen works on the literature of the mid-eighteenth century, researching the print-cultural and professional contexts of some of the most celebrated fiction of the period. She has published articles on typography, book history, and literary patronage, and she specialises in the work of Laurence Sterne and John Cleland.

Postgraduate Supervision

  • 2014-2018: Second PhD Supervisor to Hannah Humes: ‘Expanding or Diminishing Worlds: A Study of Early Twentieth-Century Oriental Travel Writing’ (principle supervisor Dr Katherine Baxter). In collaboration with the Lit & Phil, Newcastle.
  • Jan. 2017-Sep. 2017: Primary UK PhD Supervisor for Katheryn Kuitenbreuwer (University of Toronto, Canada) during her placement at Northumbria University’s Humanities Institute.
  • 2016-2017: Line Manager for Leanne Cane and Katie Aske, Research Assistants on the British Academy-funded project, ‘Editing John Cleland’s Correspondence’.

Current and Recent Projects

With Clark Lawlor, Allan Ingram, and Leigh Wetherall Dickson, Helen is co-investigator of a three-year Leverhulme-funded project entitled Writing Doctors: Representation and Medical Personality ca. 1660-1832. The project analyses writing by and about doctors and other health practitioners, including midwives, apothecaries, quacks, and cunning-women, during the period in which the English vernacular first became the primary mode of medical communication. The project employs a postgraduate research assistant and a PhD student, and will culminate in an international conference.

Helen’s monograph, with the provisional title Laurence Sterne and the Eighteenth-Century Book, is currently under review. She shares a contract with Richard Terry and Peter Sabor to publish an edition of John Cleland’s correspondence for Cambridge University Press, the result of a project which has been in part funded by the British Academy.

Helen was academic partner with the Laurence Sterne Trust for their Heritage Lottery-funded project, The Good Humour Club, a year-long digital humanities and heritage education project. A geomapping webapp was supported by four exhibitions, a podcast and an educational entertainment programme. After an AHRC-funded Public Policy placement to Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Belfast (later the Department of Communities, Government NI), the communities team funded an extension of the Good Humour Club project comprising a community theatre and skills development initiative. This Government NI communities grant used research on Sterne to explore differences between English, Irish and Northern Irish humour to aid social cohesion and employability in post-conflict communities. The performance of a Northern Irish Good Humour Club play, with a theatre set designed by NEETs, took place on 30 March 2017.

Sponsors and Collaborators

Helen’s research has attracted a range of funders. Her current research on medical books is funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and her work on John Cleland has been funded by the British Academy.

The Laurence Sterne Trust at Shandy Hall were Helen’s heritage partner for her AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award. They have since worked together on the Heritage Lottery-funded Good Humour Club project, and she continues to work closely with them in their celebration of Sterne’s fiction. She has also worked with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Belfast (later the Department of Communities, Government NI), which funded a community arts and skills development project around the Good Humour Club in Armagh.

Helen is an active contributor to the International Laurence Sterne Foundation, of which she is secretary, and is a member of the editorial board of the Foundation’s journal, The Shandean. She typesets and produces the journal from Northumbria University. Helen is also the conference venue organiser of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (BSECS) and a public engagement ambassador for the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE).

Funding Awards and Fellowships

  • 2018-2021: Leverhulme Trust-funded project, Writing Doctors: Representation and Medical Personality ca. 1660-1832 [co-I with Clark Lawlor, Allan Ingram, and Leigh Wetherall Dickson].
  • May 2017: Helen was awarded two Museums and Universities Partnership Initiative grants (Arts Council England) for projects exploring academic collaborations with the Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, and Bailiffgate Museum, Alnwick.
  • 2016-17: AHRC-funded Public Policy placement to Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Belfast.
  • 2014-2016; 2018: Four years of funding from ‘Being Human: Festival of the Humanities’ for public engagement projects across Newcastle upon Tyne (AHRC, British Academy and Wellcome Trust). 2018: Supporting role in institution-wide application; 2016, with Northern Print: The Power of Print in Eighteenth-Century Newcastle; 2015, with Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, Pickin Productions Theatre Company, Inaudible Dance Crew and Northumbria Fashion Department: A Night at the Museum: Fashion, Dance and Health in the Eighteenth-Century City; 2014, with Tyneside Cinema and the Laurence Sterne Trust: Screening of A Cock and Bull Story.
  • Apr. 2016: British Academy small grant for a year-long project entitled ‘Editing John Cleland’s Letters’ [co-I with Richard Terry].
  • Dec. 2016: AHRC-funded Residential Fellowship on Public Policy and the Humanities at Durham University.
  • May 2015: Chawton House Library visiting fellowship, for project entitled ‘Jane Collier, Sarah Fielding, Laurence Sterne: Experimental Types’.
  • Nov. 2014: Consultant for the AHRC’s tenth anniversary celebrations.
  • 2013-14: Heritage Lottery Fund grant in the ‘Your Heritage’ strand: The Good Humour Club [academic partner with the Laurence Sterne Trust].
  • 2009-12: AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award.
  • May 2011: AHRC student-led initiative for doctoral students in public engagement: New Media and Academia: Public Engagement Training for PGRs [PI].
  • Jun. 2010: Vitae Yorkshire and North East Hub Conference and Events Grant: Consuming the Past: Library Resources for Arts & Humanities PGRs [PI].



Laurence Sterne and the Eighteenth-Century Book [MSS under review].

[with Peter Sabor and Richard Terry, eds.], The Correspondence of John Cleland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019). [under contract]

[with Richard Terry], eds., Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, by John Cleland (Toronto: Broadview, 2018).

[with Patrick Wildgust, eds.], A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, by Laurence Sterne, illus. by Martin Rowson (York: Shandy Hall Press, 2018).


[with Richard Terry], ‘Reading Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure Against Cleland’s Life and Letters’, Fanny Hill Now, Special Issue of Eighteenth-Century Life, ed. by Nicholas Nace and Clorinda Donato (2018).

[with Siv Gøril Brandtzæg and M-C. Newbould], ‘Advertising Sterne’s Novels in Eighteenth-Century Newspapers’, The Shandean, 27 (2016), 27-57.

‘Alas, poor YORICK! Sterne’s Iconography of Mourning’, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 28 (2015-6), 313-344.

[with Richard Terry], ‘John Cleland and the Marquis of Rockingham: Two New Letters’, Notes and Queries, 61 (2014), 441-444.

‘Sterne’s Manicules: Hands, Handwriting and Authorial Property in Tristram Shandy’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 36 (2013), 209-223.

[with Richard Terry], ‘John Cleland and the Delavals’, Review of English Studies, 64 (2013), 795-818.

[with Richard Terry], ‘The Delaval Family’s Patronage of Christopher Smart: New Evidence’, Notes & Queries, 60 (2013), 95-97.

[with Richard Terry], ‘Christopher Smart and the Lord Crewe Trust: New Letters and Details’, Notes & Queries, 60 (2013), 97-100.

‘“Looking and reading simultaneously”: APFEL on Tristram Shandy’, The Shandean, 23 (2012), 129-135. [reprinted in English and translated into Spanish as ‘Mirar y leer simultáneamente: A Practice for Everyday Life hablan de Tristram Shandy’, trans. by María Serrano, The Publishing Lab (2013)]

Affiliations and Memberships

  • BSECS (annual conference organiser)
  • International Laurence Sterne Foundation (secretary and editorial board member)
  • North East Forum in Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Studies (member; former co-ordinator)
  • Association of Print Scholars (member)



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