Dr Tess  Somervell

Dr Tess Somervell

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow

+44 (0)113 343 1690

Summary: Eighteenth-century and Romantic literature; nature poetry; ecocriticism; georgic and pastoral; time in literature; reception and allusion.

Location: 10 Cavendish Road, Room 2.01

Teaching Commitments: ENGL2027 Eighteenth-Century Literature; ENGL2028 Literature of the Romantic Period; ENGL5117M (MA) Romantic Identities: Literary Constructions of the Self, 1789-1821; ENGL5834M (MA) Romantic Ecologies



MA (Oxon); MPhil (Cantab); PhD (Cantab)

I completed my PhD, on the long poems of John Milton, James Thomson, and William Wordsworth, at the University of Cambridge in 2015. My PhD was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I then taught at Cambridge and held a Visiting Fellowship at Chawton House Library before joining Leeds in 2016. As Research Fellow and Teaching Fellow I worked on the AHRC-funded project British Romantic Writing and Environmental Catastrophe. From 2017 I am a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, working on a project titled 'Georgic Climates: Writing the Weather in Eighteenth-Century Poetry'.

Research Interests

My research is in literature of the long eighteenth century, particularly poetry. Research interests include: long poems; nature poetry; literary representations of weather and climate; ecocriticism; literature and science; literature and theology; time in literature; reception, influence, and allusion; neoclassicism and adaptations of the rota virgilii.

My doctoral research focused on time in three long poems of the (very) long eighteenth century: Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667-74), Thomson’s The Seasons (1726-46), and Wordsworth’s The Prelude (1798-1850). I argued that these poets developed particular temporalities (theories of time) according to the different needs of their respective projects. I then explored how they expressed these temporalities not only at the level of content but in the recreation of their particular apprehensions of time in the reader’s experience by shaping that experience through poetic structure.

Under the auspices of the AHRC-funded project ‘British Romantic Writing and Environmental Catastrophe’ (see below), I carried out research into representations of the deluge in eighteenth-century and Romantic writing, with a particular focus on Wordsworth. I am interested in how the biblical deluge was reimagined by poets in the light of developments in geological history, ideas about nature, and theories of time.

My work on the deluge feeds into my current project, which is on representations of weather in georgic poetry of the long eighteenth century. I am examining how and why poets used the georgic mode and its conventions for representing the weather to navigate between competing conceptions of nature, notably the theological and the natural philosophical. This involves the study of weather in the georgic works of poets including Philips, Gay, Duck, Somervile, Collier, Smart, Dyer, Dodsley, Grainger, and Jago, as well as Romantic-period versions of georgic by Cowper, Wordsworth, and Clare.

Research Projects

I was Research Assistant to Dr David Higgins on the AHRC-funded project ‘British Romantic Writing and Environmental Catastrophe’: romanticcatastrophe.leeds.ac.uk

This project was the first major investigation of environmental catastrophe in Romantic-period writing. As well as collaborating in public engagement activities with The Wordsworth Trust and The Poetry Society, we organised and hosted a conference on ‘Mediating Climate Change’ at Leeds in 2017.

Selected Publications

Book Chapter: ‘The Seasons’, in Climate and Literature, ed. Adeline Johns-Putra, forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.

Article: ‘Mediating Vision: Wordsworth’s Allusions to Thomson’s Seasons in The Prelude’, Romanticism, 22.1 (2016), 48-60.

Article: ‘Versions of Damon and Musidora: The Realization of Thomson’s Story in Revisions and Illustrations’, Studies in the Literary Imagination, 46.1 (Spring 2013), 47-70.