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MA, PhD, PCTHE, FHEA, FEA
School of English and Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+44 (0)1865 483587
Headington Campus, Tonge Building,T408
I joined the English Department at Brookes in 2001, having previously studied and/or taught at the universities of Glasgow, Dundee, Nottingham Trent and North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA). My PhD was entitled Sexuality, Agency and Intertextuality in the Later Poetry of John Clare (Nottingham Trent, 1999).
Across my experience at the universities listed above - and just like my colleagues no doubt - I have taught and lectured on a range of literature from Chaucer to Mills and Boon Romances. I specialise in Romantic-period literary culture, working-class literature from 1800 to the present, contemporary Scottish literature, and the relationship between literature and the natural world.
I am a Fellow of the English Association, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AdvanceHE), an Honorary Lifetime Member of the British Association for Romantic Studies and am Vice Chair and a Trustee of the registered charity the John Clare Society. Across 2021 to 2022 I will be working for the Research Excellence Framework, as an assessor on Sub-panel 27: English Language and Literature.
I am currently External Examiner on the BA English at Warwick University.
I teach and research Romantic-period literature and culture, ecology and literature, working-class literature (1800 to the present), textual criticism and critical theory (especially ecocriticism), and contemporary Scottish literature.
The highlights of my research include a study of contemporary Scottish novelist James Kelman, a campaign to challenge the private copyright to John Clare’s work in two collections of his poetry and associated publications, and my ongoing editorship of the John Clare Society Journal. I appeared recently in Andrew Kötting's feature film By Our Selves (2015), talking about Clare. In 2014 I organised the 150th anniversary conference on John Clare. The collection of original essays on John Clare I co-edited with Scott McEathron of Southern Illinois University, was published by Cambridge University Press in July 2015, and is now out in paperback. My monograph John Clare: Nature, Criticism and History, was published in September 2017 by Palgrave, and I discuss it here. I co-edited another collection of essays on Clare with Dr Erin Lafford (University of Derby), called Palgrave Advances in John Clare Studies, published in 2020.
Currently, I am co-editing a paperback edition of Pierce Egan’s 1821 smash hit Life in London for Oxford World's Classics. A longer-term project I am working towards is a study of British literature and poverty, 1800-2000.
This collection gathers together an exciting new series of critical essays on the Romantic- and Victorian-period poet John Clare, which each take a rigorous approach to both persistent and emergent themes in his life and work. Designed to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Clare’s first volume of poetry, Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery, the scholarship collected here both affirms Clare’s importance as a major nineteenth-century poet and reveals how his verse continually provokes fresh areas of enquiry. Offering new archival, theoretical, and sometimes corrective insights into Clare’s world and work, the essays in this volume cover a multitude of topics, including Clare’s immersion in song and print culture, his formal ingenuity, his environmental and ecological imagination, his mental and physical health, and his experience of asylums. This book gives students a range of imaginative avenues into Clare’s work, and offers both new readers and experienced Clare scholars a vital set of contributions to ongoing critical debates.
John Clare (1793–1864) has long been recognized as one of England's foremost poets of nature, landscape and rural life. Scholars and general readers alike regard his tremendous creative output as a testament to a probing and powerful intellect. Clare was that rare amalgam ‒ a poet who wrote from a working-class, impoverished background, who was steeped in folk and ballad culture, and who yet, against all social expectations and prejudices, read and wrote himself into a grand literary tradition. All the while he maintained a determined sense of his own commitments to the poor, to natural history and to the local. Through the diverse approaches of ten scholars, this collection shows how Clare's many angles of critical vision illuminate current understandings of environmental ethics, aesthetics, Romantic and Victorian literary history, and the nature of work.
No abstract available
While it certainly had a celebratory and affirmatory atmosphere, it is important to be clear that the English: Shared Futures conference was born of uncertainty about the future of English. That discipline-specific concern is a major constituent of ongoing debates about the state and status of the humanities and arts across English-speaking universities globally. So many ‘defence of the humanities’-style polemics have been written across the past few years, that I have long worried that our subjects are becoming defensive by default, nervous by character. Rather than resolving to be hard as nails in trying times, we are in danger of feeling institutionally, systemically, hard done by. In turn, I worry that our response as a community in English and beyond can appear grotesquely self-important and brittle. As a Head of Department – constantly concerned about getting student bums on lecture theatre seats – I wonder then about how attractive our subject might be to the wider world. How attractive is it to be seen as entrenched, defensive, or even arch? Does anyone want to come into English, or support it, because we moan about how embattled we are as we proclaim our own significance, cultural superiority and sheer status?
It might be that some of what we do to argue for the humanities is self-harming. Self-declaring polemics that ‘defend the humanities’ penned by those who are ostensibly most secure in their profession – and I include myself in that bracket – might be damaging to those principles we in the humanities think we live and work by, though I hold those principles to be anything but homogenous.
This essay is not a ‘defence’ of the humanities. I don't want to mount a ‘defence of the humanities’ because I do not wish to imply that my humanities-based critical practice is an inviolate, pristine militarised citadel, all classic lines and Doric columns, with barbed wire atop the private, inward-facing, excluding, college wall. I don't want the humanities to be a stolid assertion that is beyond critique. A ‘defence’ might imply that. It might also suggest that I have a secure idea of what it is I would be defending.
By Our Selves
Director: Andrew Kötting
Soda Pictures, 2015
This feature film documents a four-day walk made by the English Poet John Clare. Toby Jones, Iain Sinclair and a Straw Bear follow in his footsteps exactly 150 years after his death. En route they bump into Macgillivray, Dr Simon Kövesi and the wizard Alan Moore. The journey is narrated by Toby’s father Freddie, a maverick actor who featured in numerous David Lynch films. John Clare's escape from Epping Forest; an epic march through hunger and madness, is an English journey to set beside 'A Pilgrim's Progress'. Andrew Kötting, hyperkinetic camper-van captain of Gallivant, sets out in hot pursuit, dressed as a Straw Bear. Father and son, Freddie and Toby Jones, are possessed by the spirit of Clare, and locked in Beckettian embrace: one all-voice and one all-mute. The writer Iain Sinclair watches from the shadows, Alan Moore waits like a bearded figure of fate, in Northampton and Dr Simon Kövesi hands out the medicine. Inspired by Iain Sinclair’s Edge of the Orison and John Clare’s Journey out of Essex.
UK theatrical release by Soda Pictures 2 October, 2015. (R/T 83 min, Cert: 15).
Recent Conference Papers and Talks
Langdyke Countryside Trust; Museum of English Rural Life, Reading; Edge Hill University; Magdalene College, Oxford (Romantic Realignments Seminar); University of Sheffield; University of Reading; Hertford College, Oxford (Romantic Realignments Seminar); Lancaster University; Keele University; University of Glasgow; University College London; University of the West of England; University of Greenwich.
I have also reviewed for: European Journal of English Studies; Romanticism; Journeys: The International Journal of Travel Writing; John Clare Society Journal; TLS; Bulletin & Review of the British Association for Romantic Studies.