Miss Charlene Lee

Job: PhD Student

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Humanities

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH

T: N/A

E: P2626377@my365.dmu.ac.uk


Personal profile

Charlene is a full time creative writing PhD student. Her interest in the intersection between traditional and contemporary female narratives has led to her research on old wives' tales and their modern counterparts. During her studies she has worked part time as a research assistant on a digital creativity project, funded by DMU’s Research and Scholarship Support Scheme and internally awarded UKRI funding. This year she will be participating as a member of the organising committee for the Doctoral Showcase. Prior to her PhD, Charlene worked as a Senior Service Development Officer for a local government.   Her work included trend analysis, leading on internal and external communications, marketing, event planning, social media and website management, and developing partnerships.

Research group affiliations

Institute of English

Research interests/expertise

Creative Practice
Empirical Research in Creative Practice
The Body in Literature and Creative Practice
Folklore (including Verbal Folklore, Customary Folklore, Oral Traditions, Performance Framing, Witchcraft, and Fairy Tales)
Digital Creativity
Representations of Community 'Fireplaces' and 'Town Squares'
The History of Literature and Storytelling


BSc Business Management
MA Creative Writing and Publishing

Conference attendance

'Old Wives, New Tales: The role of gathering empirical data in creative writing research' at the East Midlands Doctoral Network Conference 2022 
Other Talks:
Cultural eXchanges Festival 2022
States of Independence 2022
Creativity with Impact 2022
Practice-based Research Sharing Session 2023 (Internal)
Supervisor- Student Relationship Workshop 2023 (Internal)

PhD project

PhD Title

Saluting Magpies: Exploring the connection between old wives’ tales and modern information sharing

PhD project abstract

Old wives’ tales are a type of female narrative from the oral tradition. Definitions of them vary from fictional stories told by old women to pieces of advice shared through generations, some of which are true, whilst others have been scientifically disproven. Generally, the phrase has negative connotations. For example, in the King James Bible it states ‘refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself [rather] unto godliness’ (Timothy, v4). Historically, women found to be sharing these tales, especially those based on health and wellbeing advice, which this research focuses on, were admonished. These punishments included exclusion from religious, social, and educational institutions and being arrested under the Witchcraft Acts of 1563 and 1604. Women’s own educational accomplishments and desire to help their community was used in retaliation against them. But what would these persecuted women do if all the tales they told were true? Which tales could be weaponised against their persecutors and which ones could they use to help one another? In my practice-based PhD I explore this by writing a collection of contemporary short stories, embedded within a novel. The plot for each short story is based upon an old wives’ tale. For instance, in ‘The Cookbook’ Sofia’s feeds her friend carrots so that she can see in the dark and spy on her cheating husband. I address the interdisciplinary nature of my research methods; as alongside the established creative techniques used in my field, I am using empirical research methods conventionally found in other disciplines to update traditional storytelling. I discuss how I am embedding the empirical findings into the creative work, and how this research supports the idea that old wives’ tales lend themselves to emerging trends via social media, for example beauty ‘hacks’ and D.I.Y healthcare. 

Supervisory Team

Dr Josie Barnard and Professor Simon Perril

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