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Summary: I work on British writing of the Romantic period, especially poetry, and on ecological criticism and theory
My most recent book is The Birth of the Anthropocene (University of California Press, 2016). The Anthropocene is a proposed new geological epoch - very new, by geological standards - distinctively influenced by human societies. 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 a weekly blog, Made Ground.
My main current project is a history of utopian plans and experiments from the French Revolution to the 1830s. I hope that studying the planned communities of that era might teach us something both about the history of ecological thought and about Romantic-period conceptions of the agency of nonhuman things. That project is tentatively called "Ecology and Utopia: Experiments in Land and Community, 1789-1834."
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. The feeling of bodily hurt, I argue, draws attention to the body's very capacity to have feelings.
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 came to Leeds in September 2011, after studying in Cambridge, Glasgow, and London. I'm a member of the School's Research Committee, and with Richard De Ritter I co-organise the departmental seminar series in eighteenth-century and Romantic studies.
I mainly teach Romantic-period and environmental literature. I'm a regular on the undergraduate core module "Literature of the Romantic Period," and I convene a module called "Writing the Environment" designed to encourage first-year students from across the university to think about the relationship between ecology and culture. I have a special interest in first-year teaching more generally, and at the moment I'm working on redeveloping the foundational courses that we offer to students when they first join the School.
I currently offer three option modules. At undergraduate level, "The Wild: Literature and the Environment" traces visions of alterity and rebirth from the Epic of Gilgamesh to contemporary British writing, and "Romantic Lyric Poetry" combines close reading with a survey of theories of the lyric. At MA level, "Romantic Ecologies," which I co-teach with David Higgins, is an exploration of aesthetics, politics, vitality, and empire in Romantic-period encounters with the nonhuman.
I've previously taught on all the School's core modules in Romantic literature and Victorian literature at undergraduate and MA level, and on various other option courses. I also supervise undergraduate and MA dissertations, mostly on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century topics.
I'm the programme leader for the BA degree in English Literature, and I coordinate the Romantic pathway of the MA in English Literature.
The Birth of the Anthropocene (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016)
Bodily Pain in Romantic Literature (New York: Routledge, 2014)
"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
"The Distinction between Mental and Physical Pain," paper at Rhetorics of Pain: Historical Reflections, Birkbeck, University of London (May 2011)
(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
"A Hundred Tongues: George Darley's Stammer," forthcoming in Disabling Romanticism, ed. Michael Bradshaw (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)