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Dr Elspeth Jajdelska

Senior Lecturer


Personal statement

I studied English language and literature at Glasgow University and completed a PhD on seventeenth-century diaries at Leeds University in 1996. Then I worked as a fund manager for an Edinburgh firm for three years, before spending a year and a half at the Jagiellonian and Pedagogical Universities in Krakow, Poland. I came to Strathclyde in 2001. 


"Singing of psalms of which I could never get enough" : labouring class religion and poetry in the Cambuslang revival of 1741
Jajdelska Elspeth
Studies in Scottish literature Vol 41, pp. 88-107, (2015)
From storytellers to narrators : how can the history of reading help with understanding reading comprehension?
Jajdelska Elspeth
Applied linguistics and primary school teachingApplied linguistics and primary school teaching, (2012)
Unknown unknowns; ignorance of the Indies among late seventeenth-century Scots
Jajdelska Elspeth
The Dutch Trading Companies as Knowledge NetworksIntersections Vol 14, (2010)
‘The very defective and erroneous method’ : reading instruction and social identity in elite eighteenth-century learners
Jajdelska Elspeth
Oxford Review of Education Vol 36, pp. 141-156, (2010)
Crying, moving, and keeping it whole : what makes literary description vivid?
Jajdelska Elspeth, Butler Christopher, Kelly Steve, McNeill Allan, Overy Katie
Poetics Today: International Journal for Theory and Analysis of Literature and Communication Vol 31, pp. 433-463, (2010)
Comprehension and the silent reader
Jajdelska Elspeth, Ellis Sue, null null

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I teach on the undergraduate BA degree in English literature. As well as core class teaching in first and second year, my upcoming and current options are 'Oral narratives and fairy tales', 'Theories of literature and wellbeing' and 'Literature, mind and brain'. 

Research interests

I have completed two books on the history of reading in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In both I aim to reconnect the history of reading with the history of speech. I also research how cognitive science can help us to understand literary experience. To support this work I have completed an MSc in  Mind, Language and Embodied Cognition (2016, distinction).

Professional activities

'Who was Johnson's common reader?'
Invited speaker
St Andrews High School, Kirkcaldy
Visiting lecturer
Dumfries High School
Visiting lecturer
Linguistics and Anthropology for members of the Voices and Books Network
Walter Scott and the New Science of Reading
AHRC network, Voices and Books 1500-1800 (External organisation)

more professional activities


Trainee Teachers’ Perceptions of Poetry and their attitudes to Poetry Teaching
Smith, Vivienne (Academic) Jajdelska, Elspeth (Academic)
The aim of this investigation is to explore student teachers’ attitudes bring to their studies towards poetry at an early stage of their career, before they have had any pedagogical input from course tutors on the topic. The investigation will seek to identify these attitudes and the formative influences on these attitudes.
Period 31-Oct-2014 - 30-Jun-2015
Group for Renaissance Research Reading
Fudge, Erica (Academic) Hope, Jonathan (Academic) Jajdelska, Elspeth (Academic) Clark, Douglas Iain (Post Grad Student)
Research in Renaissance studies has traditionally been a particular strength of English at the University of Strathclyde, and this is reflected in the meetings of the Group for Renaissance Research Reading. The group is made up of both staff and postgraduate students and meets frequently during term time to engage with issues current in the field. Our meetings take the form of seminar talks, and group-discussions of recent work which engages with broad cultural aspects of the Renaissance. The expertise of group members covers a variety of areas. These include Renaissance literature; the history of ideas; the history of language; social and political history; cultural history – with interests in visual, musical, linguistic, and intellectual history, as well as digital approaches to the analysis of texts. The group also has links to the Scottish Institute of Northern Renaissance Studies (SINRS) and the Journal of the Northern Renaissance. (
Period 10-Jan-2011
CW and SLA - Creative writing as a tool in second language acquisition (FP7 MC IRSES)
Jajdelska, Elspeth (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Jan-2009 - 31-Dec-2011
Helping young readers with comprehension problems
Jajdelska, Elspeth (Principal Investigator) Ellis, Susan (Co-investigator)
Reading comprehension is vital to the success and self-esteem of school pupils, so much so that it is a high priority in the Scottish Executive's current education strategy. Yet it has proved an intractable problem for teachers. In recent years this has led to a prolonged and sometimes heated debate over the advantages and disadvantages of varying teaching methods, such as the method of synthetic phonics. However, this debate has focussed on problems of 'decoding' text rather than comprehending it. 'Decoding' means turning letters into sounds and words, and it is of course a crucial stage in learning to read. But research has shown that many pupils are proficient at decoding a text, yet when they are asked what the text is about, they find it difficult to answer. This is where research on the history of reading and prose style can provide some answers. Dr Jajdelska's work on the rise of silent reading in the eighteenth century has shown that writers who assume a silent reader (as almost all writers do in the present day) construct their texts differently from those who write for readers who speak the text to themselves or an audience (as almost all writers did before the eighteenth century). Since the eighteenth century, texts have been constructed so that readers need to imagine a 'narrator' in order to make sense of it. If the reader cannot imagine this narrator, they will have great difficulties in understanding narrative, because they won't be able to make sense of movements in time and space. For example, if the narrator explains that a character has left the room, the proficient silent reader can adjust their mental model of what's happening accordingly. But if the reader has problems imagining the narrator, and working out the narrator's imaginary position, they will have problems both in creating and adjusting their mental model of the narrative in this way. In other words, they will have problems with comprehension, even though they are perfectly competent at decoding the text. Dr Jajdelska's work explains in great detail exactly which kinds of textual features are likely to be difficult for readers (such as those in the early eighteenth century) who have learned to read but find it hard to follow texts written for silent readers. Given that these findings arose in an academic field unconnected to educational studies, how can this knowledge be made available to teachers? Ideally, the method should involve the teachers themselves and take place in a context of pupils reading. The literacy circles developed by Sue Ellis, a researcher in literacy and education, are ideal for this purpose. Dr Jajdelska and Ms Ellis will choose texts for children which highlight the comprehension problems in question. We will then work with teachers to explain the nature of these comprehension problems and how to spot them. The teachers will establish literacy circles, a reading context which maximises pupils' motivation to read. When comprehension difficulties arise, the teachers, with continued support from the researchers, will be able to identify and remedy them more effectively than in the past. In the final stage of the scheme, the researchers will help the teachers to write up their experiences in a suitable way for fellow teachers for the Learning and Teaching Scotland website. We believe that the Dr Jajdelska's findings may prove invaluable to teachers. Communicating them this way will ensure that they are well understood by individual teachers in the first instance, who will then by responsible for communicating them as effectively as possible to the wider teaching community.
Period 01-May-2007 - 24-Mar-2009

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