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 Katharine Kavanagh

Katharine Kavanagh

Research student,


Katharine is a PhD student in the Centre for Language and Communication Research.

Her research uses a corpus linguistics methodology to investigate the way audience members attribute value to their experience of circus productions. It compares the alignment of these values with the corresponding values expressed in circus promotional texts.

Academic Background

  • MA in Language and Communication Research at Cardiff University (2018-2019; Distinction)

  • BA in Theatre at Dartington College of Arts (2002-2005; First Class Honours)


Research interests

  • Evaluation

  • Arts Criticism

  • (Critical) Discourse Analysis

  • Corpus Linguistics

  • Circus Studies

I also have an underlying interest in communication that bridges difference in value systems, particularly in education and public media.



Book review:


  • 'Counting What Counts? A corpus linguistic approach to circus audience experience', at TaPRA Conference 2022, 12-14th Sept 2022, University of Essex

  • Panelist: 'Doing and Seeing the Circus Differently: Formats, Norms, Expectations', at Circusnext Think Circus! Conference, 20 May 2022, Théâtre de la Cité Internationale, Paris

  • 'Spectator Subjectivities: What worlds do our words paint?', at Circus and its Others III, 4-7 Nov 2021, University of California, Davis

  • 'Opportunity in the Abyss: growing a critical culture of circus', at Platform Symposium: On Criticism, 23 Nov 2018, Central School of Speech and Drama, London

  • 'Overcoming Academic Otherness - experiments in integration', at Circus and Its Others II, 27-29 Aug 2018, Prague

  • 'Introduction to the Contemporary Circus: Studies and spectacle ', at Festival of Creative Learning, 22 Feb 2018, University of Edinburgh (School of Art)

  • 'Circus and Criticism', at Theatre and Fandom, 7 July 2017, University of Bristol


  • FTF and BLENDED Visiting Lecturer at Circomedia in Bristol, UK, teaching circus history, context and and criticality to BA & MA students (Oct 2018-) 

  • FTF PGR Teaching Assistant for 2nd year BA students on Digital Culture module. School of Journalism, Media and Culture, Cardiff University.

  • FTF and ONLINE Guest lecturer at Stockholm University of the Arts (SKH): Online mini-module on reviewing circus for 2nd year BA students (Oct-Nov 2022); Online lecture on Critical Approaches to Circus Studies to MA students (May 2019); In person weeklong workshop on circus performance and interpretation to 2nd year BA students (April 2019); In person seminar with MA students analysing performance work (April 2019)

  • ONLINE Post-graduate Tutor for 1st year BA students on Understanding Communication module. School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff University (Oct 2020-Jan 2021)

  • FTF and ONLINE Brilliant Club tutor, introducing Corpus Assisted Discourse Studies (CADS) to Key Stage 3 students (Nov 2020-Jan 2021)

  • FTF Lecturer at the National Centre for Circus Arts in London, teaching a module on performance review and analysis to 2nd year BA students (Sept 2017-Feb 2018)


What's So Special About (The) Circus? Mediating the Divide Between Elite and Populist Values

My Doctoral research investigates audience experience and public representations of circus, with a focus on evaluative texts collected from audience members and promotional public media sources. It identifies elements of circus attendance experience that are linguistically realised as valuable, using Martin & White's (2005) APPRAISAL framework and corpus linguistic analysis of key semantic domains (Rayson et al, 2004). The values expressed in reviews, publicity materials, and by audience members are compared to determine how the interests of audience members are represented in public evaluative texts. This will lead to recommendations for how the producers of such texts can better serve the circus arts and potential audience members, bridging the value difference between them in a more effective communicative form.

Funding source




Dr Amanda Potts

Senior Lecturer