Professor Deirdre Osborne

Deirdre's research ranges from late-Victorian to contemporary periods focusing upon feminism, race and poetics.

Staff details

Professor Deirdre Osborne


Professor of Literature and Drama in English


English and Creative Writing


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Dr Deirdre Osborne’s research embraces the Victorian era through to contemporary culture in fiction, drama, life-writing and poetry to focus upon the marginalised voices of disenfranchised and dispossessed groups within this wide spectrum of genres and periods. Her particular emphasis is on women’s writing. This extends into exploring the consequentialist aesthetics, of adoption, mixedness and decolonial narratives through dramatic-poetics and three conceptual models she has developed, “Landmark Poetics”, “Mothertext” and “Didactic Poetics”.

Academic qualifications

PhD New Woman Writers, Motherhood and Colonial Ideology (1880-1903). Birkbeck, University of London.

BA (Hons) English Literature, Kings College, University of London.

National Diploma in Performance Coaching (Education), Newcastle College.


A key focus of Deirdre’s career has been working with students who have followed non-traditional routes into education but have achieved levels of academic excellence in an arc spanning universities, further education and prisons. She is above all committed to decolonizing pedagogies and curriculum design and co-convenes the world-first MA Black British Writing that received the Student Union Teaching Award for ‘Compelling and Diverse Curriculum’ (2018). See press coverage: ‘We know how higher education fails black students, so what’s stopping us from fixing it?’ by Abbianca Makoni.

She produced the EdExcel Examination Board materials Contemporary Black British Literature: A Guide (2017) so that A-level English Literature pupils can study this work for their qualification. See: Blog for the Runnymede Trust on decolonizing curriculum, ‘Black British Literature at A-Level: The First Step to Many’.

She has taught on programmes at Birkbeck University of London, New York University, distance learning for the Open University and was Visiting Professor in Postcolonial Literature, University of Palermo, Italy. Her undergraduate teaching includes Shakespeare, Modernism and Postmodernism, Feminism, and Cultural Theory.

Professional activities

Deirdre works collaboratively at the interface between the academy and community in a broader social context. Her public-facing cultural events and landmark academic conferences have created powerful links between Goldsmiths and the constituencies represented by leading figures in the arts and politics, nationally and internationally. These include:

  • On Whose Terms?’: Ten Years On… (in Critical Negotiations in Black British Literature and the Arts) with Birgit Neumann (University of Dusseldorf, Germany), and in association with Catherine Robson (New York University London). Keynote speakers: Jackie Kay, Carol Boyce Davies, Fred D’Aguiar, John McLeod, Charlotte Williams with academic delegates from 14 countries worldwide, local schools, and the general public.
  • Daughter of Africa: Celebrating Margaret Busby’s Life in Publishing and Literature  (with Goldsmiths Centre for Feminist Research).
  • Women, Dissidence, Hope: An Evening with Nawal El Sadaawi in conversation with Heidi Safia Mirza and Deirdre Osborne (with Kadija Sesay and African PEN).
  • Black Bodies and Britain’s Cultural Institutions: An Act of Public Li-Ability? Robbie Shilliam, Sara Myers and Courttia Newland – a pop-up event in response to the Barbican’s ‘Exhibit B’ protest.
  • The annual Renegade Raconteurs Series (supported by Media Communications and Cultural Studies) inaugurated by The 3Rs:An Evening with Darcus Howe
  • D-Day; Celebrating Diane Abbott’s 25 Years as an MP
  • Panellists, speakers, artists: Moira Stuart, Ken Livingstone, Herman Lord Ouseley, Darcus Howe, Malorie Blackman, Harriet Harman, Shami Chakrabarty, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Hugh Muir, Heidi Safia Mirza, Yvonne Brewster, Angie LeMar, Margaret Busby, Aminatta Forna, Hannah Pool, Patricia Cumper, SuAndi, Malika Booker, Kadija George, Dorothea Smartt.
  • Deirdre is the Associate Editor, Women’s Writing; mediaeval period – long nineteenth century (Taylor and Francis) (2012-present).

Selected work

The Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature 1945-2010. The first Cambridge Companion that foregrounds the realities of African, Asian diasporic and European cultural lineages inherited by British black and Asian writers.  It addresses the issue of trans-nationality, the impact of a globalised world and introduces new areas such as LGBTQI literature, rurality, and adoption aesthetics. Review: Kamila Shamsie, Times Literary Supplement, 3/03/2017.

Mothertext: Restoring the Mixed Matrilineal Routes to Heritage’ in The Story of M and Selected Poems by SuAndi (London: Oberon Books, 2017). Review: Elaine Aston

‘Complex Coalitions: Sex, Gender, Race and Class’, with Leila Hassan for Here to Stay, Here to Fight: Race Today Anthology (London: Pluto Press) which will be launched at the Tate Library, Brixton on 25th October, 2019.

Publications and research outputs


Anim-Addo, Joan; Osborne, Deirdre and Sesay, Kadija. 2021. This is the Canon: Decolonize Your Bookshelf in 50 Books. London: Quercus Editions. ISBN 9781529414592

Edited Book

Osborne, Deirdre; Howe, Leila Hassan and Peacock, Margaret, eds. 2023. Race Today: A Luta Continua. London: Darcus Howe Legacy Collective. ISBN 9781399949613

Osborne, Deirdre, ed. 2016. The Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945–2010). Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107139244

Osborne, Deirdre; Brewer, Mary F. and Goddard, Lynette, eds. 2014. Modern and Contemporary Black British Drama. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9780230303195

Edited Journal

Osborne, Deirdre, ed. 2009. Contemporary Black British Women’s Writing Special Issue for Women: A Cultural Review, Women: A Cultural Review, 10(3). 0957-4042

Book Section

Osborne, Deirdre. 2023. “The Rule of Three”: Textual Triads, Trialogues, and Women’s Voices in Sylvia Plath, Jackie Kay, and debbie tucker green. In: Rachel Carroll and Fiona Tolan, eds. The Routledge Companion to Literature and Feminism. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 244-262. ISBN 9780367410261

Osborne, Deirdre. 2022. Sites and Sightlines: Staging Andrea Levy’s Small Island. In: , ed. UNSPECIFIED 53 (1-2) Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 219-255.

Osborne, Deirdre. 2021. Emecheta, Florence Onyebuchi [Buchi] (1944–2017). In: David Cannadine, ed. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Osborne, Deirdre. 2021. Rewriting History. Museums Journal, 121(5), pp. 51-53. ISSN 0027-416X

Osborne, Deirdre. 2019. ‘Mixed Messages’. Women: A Cultural Review, 30(3), pp. 373-377. ISSN 0957-4042

Osborne, Deirdre. 2019. ‘From Institutional Exclusion to Institutionalisation: “Decolonising” Literary Curricula’. Wasafiri, 34(4), pp. 128-132. ISSN 0269-0055

Conference or Workshop Item

Osborne, Deirdre. 2019. '‘Hearing and Sounding Voices: In the “silence of ink and paper”’(Mills, 2009)'. In: In Pursuit of Sound: An Inter-disciplinary Symposium. University of Cambridge, United Kingdom 1-2 October 2019.

Osborne, Deirdre. 2019. '‘Landmark Poetics’'. In: Infrastructural Reading: Forms, Flows, Fragments. City, University of London, United Kingdom 4 June 2019.

Osborne, Deirdre. 2018. 'Didactic Poetics : Critical, Creative, Consequentialist'. In: Race and Poetics and Poetry in the UK: Legacies of Colonialism. Queen's College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom 26 October 2018.


Osborne, Deirdre; Anim-Addo, Joan and Sesay, Kadija. 2022. Vital Discussions: On Demand – Decolonise Your Bookshelf.


Nichols, Grace and Osborne, Deirdre. 2020. 'Breath' by Grace Nichols. Goldsmiths, New Cross.

Research Interests

Deirdre’s research analyses the on-going consequences of colonialism to retrieve the very neglected voices in literary history and contemporary culture:

  • It foregrounds the phenomenon of maternal aesthetics in processes of colonisation in British and Australian literature (1880-1912).
  • It contributes to reconfiguring British literary history through archiving and critically analysing the contributions of black writers, in particular, the achievements of contemporary women writers.

Her new research emphases that have emerged from this work include:

  • investigating the representations of mixedness (ethnically and culturally), in poly-generic writing and ego-histoire in reading adoption and mixed-race narratives
  • developing a new critical approach, ‘Landmark Poetics’, which extends the borders of the materiality of the voice to engage with the performance of poetry on surfaces (clothing, buildings, pavements, rocks, monuments, and plaques).
  • examining ‘consequentialist aesthetics’ as an artistic means for addressing the unequal after-effects of the British Empire and its contemporary legacies in British culture.

Areas of supervision

Deirdre welcomes enquiries across a broad reach of areas: dramatic poetics, life-writing, feminism, Black British writing, and representing adoption, fostering and mixedness and prison theatre. Her chronological scope is from the Victorian period to the present.