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Rachel Cross

Research student,


I am a postgraduate research student working in the exciting field of illustration studies within English literature.

I hold qualifications in Engish literature (BA (Hons), MA) and in music (DipABRSM, LMusTCL) and am a member of the Incorporated Society of Musicians.

I have taught English and music at many levels and am currently a postgraduate tutor in the English faculty at Cardiff University. I am also an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

I am currently enrolled in a part-time PhD project which covers three of my favourite subjects: literature, musicology and art history.


Research interests

I am interested in Victorian popular song, illustration and music and am currently working in the fields of illustration studies, English literature and musicology. My research also covers art history.

For my PhD thesis, I am researching depictions of race and gender in Victorian illustrated songs. During Victoria’s reign, the rise of the piano and an increased interest in singing led to the widescale publication of popular songs for performance at home. To improve marketability, many songs were sold with an illustrated front cover. The illustrated Victorian song was therefore a uniquely integrated art form, with illustration, music and lyrics packaged together. Presenting themes in such a way allows for a fascinating insight into Victorian cultural feeling. My analyses of these three media introduce tripartite inter- and intra-art comparisons and analogies between image, music and text in an investigation about how this art form contributed to the construction of meanings and the development of racial and sexual stereotypes.


I have taught on two undergraduate modules at Cardiff University:

  • Critical Reading and Critical Writing

  • Transforming Visions.


Victorian Illustrated Songs: A Critical and Cultural Analysis

My thesis focuses on Victorian illustrated songs and the varying representations of Victorian society in their illustrations, music and text (the song titles and lyrics). My research therefore centres on the analysis of these three elements of the songs in order to explore how these diverse media work together and against each other to portray nineteenth-century issues. 

Illustrated songs are unique in combining three art forms in one publication and this tripartite representation in image, music and text offers multiplicity of interpretation, exposing distinctive perspectives on Victorian society. Illustrated music sheets were also produced quickly and were relatively unmediated meaning they reveal much about Victorian cultural feeling. It will be seen that depictions of the song subjects are varied in these three art forms and often seem to be contradictory. This raises questions about the impact the choice of media has on the representation and how these varying portrayals were ‘read’ and understood. 

Funding source

Privately funded


Areas of expertise