Helen Taylor

Helen Taylor

Helen Taylor is a Professor of English and the University’s Humanities Arts and Culture Fellow. In the academic community she is best known for her expertise in the field of American Studies where she has added to the body of research for almost four decades. Her research on ‘Gone with the Wind’ made a significant contribution to the understanding of the role of popular culture in the notions of the South, of femininity, of whiteness and of slavery. Helen’s work on the writings of Kate Chopin, Alex Haley and Tennessee Williams, as well as on the post-Hurricane Katrina culture of New Orleans, have helped put the writings and culture of the American South on the academic map. In 2011, this led to her election as an Honorary Fellow of the British Association of American Studies, in recognition of her ‘distinguished contributions to American Studies’. She says: “This was a thrilling tribute by my scholar peers to a lifetime of scholarship on the American South.”

In her Fellowship role, she devised and has helped implement a major new Arts and Culture Strategy for the University.

Helen’s work has been inspired by a variety of people and events such as the Second Wave Women’s Movement and the work of feminist theorists such as Sheila Rowbotham, Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan, as well as feminist critics such as Ellen Moers, Elaine Showalter, Toni Morrison and Cora Kaplan, who taught her about women’s history and literary culture. More recently, the campaigns of young feminists such as Malala Yousafzai for girls’ education and Fahma Mohamed against female genital mutilation have given her great hope for the future.

However, she thinks that more could and should be done commenting: “I wish there could be an effective political agenda to challenge discrimination against women at all levels – from unequal pay (still nothing like implemented since the Equal Pay Act, 1970) to promotion to senior posts in Government, education and commerce, from police disregard of serious crimes against women like rape and domestic violence, to the sexualisation of the internet and popular media. Not to mention a global agenda to end inequalities everywhere in women’s education, work and domestic responsibilities.”

When she’s not working, Helen relaxes to a wide range of music from opera to rhythm ‘n blues, and enjoys cliff path walking followed by proper Devon cream teas.