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. 

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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'. 

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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


A study of Jane Austen and 'play' in narrative technique
Jajdelska, Elspeth (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2017 - 30-Jan-2023
Stories in Scotland
Jajdelska, Elspeth (Principal Investigator)
02-Jan-2017 - 31-Jan-2019
Stories in Scotland by Word and Screen the neuroscience of narrative
Jajdelska, Elspeth (Principal Investigator)
14-Jan-2015 - 13-Jan-2016
Trainee Teachers’ Perceptions of Poetry and their attitudes to Poetry Teaching
Soltysek, Raymond Ronald (Academic) 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.
31-Jan-2014 - 30-Jan-2015
CW and SLA - Creative writing as a tool in second language acquisition (FP7 MC IRSES)
Jajdelska, Elspeth (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2009 - 31-Jan-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.
01-Jan-2007 - 24-Jan-2009

More projects

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Dr Elspeth Jajdelska
Senior Lecturer

Email: elspeth.jajdelska@strath.ac.uk
Tel: 444 8338