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Eighteenth-Century Studies and Romanticism

Our Work:

Our research in eighteenth-century studies and Romanticism has contributed to important developments in historicism in literary studies.

The department includes one of the largest and most vibrant research groups in the eighteenth century and Romantic period in Britain. The group actively collaborates on themes including British literature and the history of art and objects; the history of science; the history of philosophy, especially the reception of German philosophy in British romanticism; rhetorical cultures; dissenting studies; the history of the book; and the cultural history of the long eighteenth century.

Our research is particularly strong in the following areas:


Research Interests

Eighteenth-century literature, art, and politics

One shared focus of our work is the relationships between literature, art, and politics. John Barrell, who joined the department in January 2013, is working on a book on politics and the Royal Academy in the 1790s. He has just finished writing a book on the Welsh artist and writer Edward Pugh, to be published in 2013. Matthew Mauger’s research focuses on the poetry and other writing of legal theorists including William Blackstone, Joseph Priestley, and Jeremy Bentham. Christopher Reid's research interests include rhetorical theory, political writing and speaking (particularly of the House of Commons), governing elites, and rural life in eighteenth-century England.

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The eighteenth-century city

Richard Coulton has investigated sociability and natural history in London, particularly commercial nurserymen. Markman Ellis edited a collection on Prostitution and Eighteenth-Century Culture (2011).

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Religion and dissenting studies

Isabel Rivers is currently working on dissenting, Methodist, and evangelical literary culture, and libraries, tutors, students, and philosophy teaching in dissenting academies. She has edited collections of essays on Joseph Priestley (2008) and on Dissenting Praise (2011). Tessa Whitehouse's research concentrates on the literary culture of Protestant nonconformists in the long eighteenth century, with particular attention to letter-writing, memorial practices, and collective editing.

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Book history and the circulation of texts and manuscripts

Isabel Rivers’s other research interests include book and publishing history, reading practices, and religious and philosophical literature from the mid seventeenth to the mid nineteenth centuries. Tessa Whitehouse is also interested in education, encyclopedias, periodicals, portraits, and the Atlantic world.

Markman Ellis’s current work focuses on the material letter and information order in eighteenth-century correspondence collections (especially those of Thomas Birch and Elizabeth Montagu).

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Romantic poetry and philosophy

Shahidha Bari examines Romantic interiority and the Romantic engagement with Islam and the East, specifically early English translations of the Arabian Nights, nineteenth-century Islamic art, and the literature of Orientalism. Anne Janowitz engages with the social experience of poetry from the late 17th century through the 20th. Her most recent work interprets the poetic discourse of the night sky in the culture of Newtonianism. She is also working on a study of Delmore Schwartz’s twentieth century American romanticism. Andrew Lincoln has written about the poetry of William Blake and the social, political, and legal discourses of the Enlightenment.

Paul Hamilton has written extensively on European Enlightenment and Romantic philosophy, political theory, and literature, including Coleridge and German thought. The research of Barbara Taylor, who is based in the Departments of English and History, also includes the British Enlightenment and feminist thought.  Like Shahidha, she is also interested in theories and histories of subjectivity. She is currently working on a historical memoir of the British mental health system and a history of solitude in Enlightenment Britain.

James Vigus researches the literature and philosophy of European Romanticism, especially the early reception of German thought in Britain, with particular focus on Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Together with Timothy Whelan and a team of specialist editors he is currently preparing a critical edition of the Reminiscences and Diary of Henry Crabb Robinson.

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Cultural History

The department hosts a project on the cultural history of tea. Richard Coulton has contributed research on the cultural history of Britain's involvement in the China tea-trade during the long eighteenth century. Markman Ellis is working on the history of tea and the cultures of tea-consumption, while Matthew Mauger is writing on legal and commercial innovation, mercantile life, and the China tea trade (1760-1830). Books produced for the project include the edition Tea and the Tea-Table in Eighteenth-Century England by Markman Ellis, Richard Coulton, Matthew Mauger and Ben Dew (2010). The project is completing a collaborative monograph entitled The Empire of Tea for Reaktion in 2014.

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Projects, Seminars, and Reading Groups

Isabel Rivers, James Vigus, and Tessa Whitehouse are all active in the work of the Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English. The Centre hosts major research projects, including the Dissenting Academies Project and the Crabb Robinson Project, and runs a Lunchtime Work-in-Progress Seminar and Seminar in Religion and Literature

Markman Ellis and Tessa Whitehouse are active members of the organising committee of the Queen Mary Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, which runs a seminar and other activities, and both help coordinate the activities of The London Eighteenth Century Reading Group, along with Christopher Reid.

Tessa Whitehouse is co-convenor of the London Digital Humanities Group.

Tessa Whitehouse, Christopher Reid, Barbara Taylor, and Markman Ellis are members of a new collaborative research initiative with colleagues at Warwick exploring friendship in the long eighteenth century.

Graduate Study

The department offers the MA in English Studies pathway called Eighteenth-Century Literature and Romanticism.

We welcome applications for doctoral study in any aspect of research in literature, writing, and culture of the long eighteenth century and Romanticism. Recent successful PhD topics have included sermons in print; Joseph Priestley; William Hazlitt; Isaac Watts and Philip Doddridge; dissenters' private academies; eighteenth-century women’s autobiographies; Catherine Macaulay and Hannah More; provincial print networks in eighteenth-century England; biography and memoir in Wollstonecraft and Robinson; the cultural history of the Bookseller.

We have a lively group of current postgraduate research students, working on topics including

  • Poetry and the natural order in the eighteenth century
  • The musical sublime and romanticism
  • The space of the theatre in eighteenth-century drama
  • Lunar discourse in the late seventeenth century
  • The poetry of John Clare
  • Eighteenth-century poetry and the 'mad-business'
  • Schoolboy writing in the eighteenth century

We have supported several post-doctoral research fellows in recent years, funded by Leverhulme and the AHRC, who have worked on Enlightenment and Romantic biography, the history of dissenting academies, and dissenting academy libraries. Anthony Ossa-Richardson, who currently holds a Leverhulme Early Career Post-Doctoral Fellowship, is working on the history of ambiguity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Staff working in these areas include:

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