Studying Victorian Literature at Leeds

Victorian Literature Research Group

The study of Victorian Literature at the University of Leeds offers an exceptional combination of internationally-renowned staff expertise and the resources of a major Victorian city, with outstanding architecture, libraries, art gallery, and theatres. Leeds - and the surrounding region of West Yorkshire - has associations with several major Victorian literary figures, most notably the Brontës, as well as with important social movements such as Chartism. The Special Collections of the Brotherton Library has important holdings of material on the Brontës, Gaskell, Swinburne, Edmund Gosse, and literature of the 1890s. In addition, the Leeds Library, the oldest private subscription library in the country, has an extensive collection of Victorian popular fiction. The School of English runs a Victorian Research Seminar, which showcases work by current staff, research students, and visiting speakers.

Research Interests and Activities

Victorian studies in the School of English exhibits strengths across the whole range of the historical period, as well as encompassing a broad variety of literary genres, cultural and intellectual contexts, and critical approaches. Members of the group have extensive interests in Victorian fiction, poetry, life-writing, journalism and periodicals, anthropology, and science. Their publications include notable work on authors such as Henry James, John Ruskin, Robert Louis Stevenson, and W.M. Thackeray, and on topics such as Victorian literature and finance, digitization and the 19th century press, the history of science, the professionalization of authorship, representations of matriarchy, and working girls in late-Victorian fiction.

Current major research projects led by members of the group include the Victorian Lives and Letters Consortium, a large-scale collaborative project on the digital curation of 19th century life-writing ( for further details see and an AHRC funded Research Network Making Waves: Oliver Lodge and the Cultures of Science, 1875-1940, which explores how science and technology were part of wider cultures of display in the Victorian period. Scholarly editing is a distinctive feature of much of the group’s recent work and includes ongoing work for major collected editions of Stevenson, James, and Swinburne, as well as several recent editions for the Oxford World’s Classics series of works by Gaskell, Ruskin, and Trollope. The significance of digital humanities to modern textual scholarship is also an area of common interest within the group.

Impact and Engagement

Members of the Victorian literature group have actively engaged in collaborations with local and national cultural institutions, including the British Library, the Royal Society, Opera North, the Brontë Parsonage Museum, and Ilkley Literature Festival. Public events in which we have participated or helped to organize include the W.T. Stead lectures, a series of high-profile public lectures held at the British Library to mark the opening of the new News and Media Reading Room, a collaboration between Opera North and the arts charity Alchemy Anew on the industrial heritage of Victorian Leeds, and commemorative celebrations of Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson.

For full details of the research interests and publications of the Victorian Literature group, see the individual profiles of the members of staff who specialize in this area:

Dr Emily Cuming, Dr Denis Flannery, Dr Katy Mullin, Dr James Mussell, Professor Francis O’Gorman, Dr Julia Reid, Dr Richard Salmon

Postgraduate Study

At MA level we offer a range of specialist modules in Victorian literature, currently including modules on the Brontës, imperial masculinities, and Victorian media, and supervise MA dissertations across a wide range of authors and topics. The Victorian pathway on the MA in English Literature provides an excellent basis for students who wish to go on to pursue research in this area at PhD level.

Academic staff members of the group have considerable experience of supervising PhD students across a wide range of topics in Victorian literature. Recent examples of completed PhD theses in the School of English include work on Oscar Wilde, Jerome K. Jerome, the Chartist poet Ernest Jones, the 20th century reception of the Brontës, Dissenting women writers from Hannah More to Josephine Butler, and masculinity in the work of Thackeray and Meredith. Current PhD students are engaged in research on mysticism in Victorian poetry, Chartist autobiography, the poetry of Emily Brontë, Thomas Hardy, and Victorian interest in ancient Egypt. After they have transferred to full PhD status at the end of the first year of research (or two years for part-time students), postgraduate research students become affiliate members of the research group and can participate in many of its activities such as organizing conferences, research seminars, and reading groups.

Applications for PhD study are welcome in all areas of Victorian literature.

Current postgraduate research students in Victorian literature:

Nada Alotaibi, Patricia Ayrton, Sara Brio, Rachel Mace, Charlotte Thomason