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Summary: I work on British writing of the Romantic period, especially poetry, and on ecological criticism and theory
I'm currently pursuing two sets of interests: ecocritical approaches to British Romantic writing, and theories of the 'Anthropocene.'
My main project at the moment is a history of the environment in radical and utopian thought from the French Revolution to the 1830s. I suspect that Britain's radical political cultures during those years played a more important role in the development of ideas about ecology and land use than we've previously understood. The project is provisionally called "Ecology and Utopia: Experiments in Land and Society, 1789-1834."
In 2016 I published The Birth of the Anthropocene (University of California Press), which examines a proposed new geological epoch - very new, by geological standards - distinctively influenced by human societies. In it, I argue that the thought of the Anthropocene is a valuable one for green politics and environmental movements because it opens a window on to geological time, offering a way to locate the modern environmental catastrophe in the deep context of planetary history.
I'm continuing to write about the Anthropocene in an occasional blog, Made Ground, and in some essays on geology, time, and lyric.
My first book was Bodily Pain in Romantic Literature (Routledge, 2014). It explores the history of physical pain in the decades before the development of surgical anaesthesia in 1846. The strangeness of the experience of pain - it's at once intimate and alien, both self-evident and inscrutable - made it intellectually productive for a number of Romantic-period writers, among them Jeremy Bentham, the Marquis de Sade, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and P. B. Shelley. The book tries to show how pain could prompt new ways of thinking about ethics and identity. It was shortlisted for the University English prize for the year's best book in English studies by an early career scholar.
I'm still very interested in Coleridge and in the Shelleys, and my other Romantic-period pursuits include the poets George Darley and Thomas Lovell Beddoes, and writings for and about the theatre.
I convene the School's Environmental Humanities research group, and with Richard De Ritter I co-organise the departmental seminar series in eighteenth-century and Romantic studies. I currently supervise three PhD students, working on Mont Blanc in Romantic culture; sleep and sleeplessness in Romantic poetry and phenomenology; and Transcendentalism and ornithology. If you're thinking about doctoral study on a Romantic-period topic, please feel free to get in touch.
My main teaching interests are in Romantic-period and environmental literature at all levels, and in foundational teaching for students newly arrived at university. But I'm away from teaching for the 2017/18 academic year, working on the "Ecology and Utopia" project.
The Birth of the Anthropocene (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016)
Bodily Pain in Romantic Literature (New York: Routledge, 2014)
"A Hundred Tongues: George Darley's Stammer," in Disabling Romanticism, ed. Michael Bradshaw (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)
"The Fire-Raisers: Bentham and Torture," 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 15 (2012)
"The Shelleys and the Art of Suffering," Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 34, no. 2 (2011), 267-80
(Co-ed. with an introduction) Nostalgia and the Shapes of History, special issue of Memory Studies 3, no. 3 (2010), containing...
"Sustainable Nostalgia," Memory Studies 3, no. 3 (2010), 262-68