Professor Matthew Rubery, BA (Texas) PhD (Harvard)
Professor of Modern Literature
My work focuses on modern literature, media, and reading practices. Originally from Texas, I joined Queen Mary in 2010 after teaching in Leeds and Philadelphia for a number of years and completing my doctorate at Harvard. My first book, The Novelty of Newspapers: Victorian Fiction after the Invention of the News (Oxford, 2009), was awarded the European Society for the Study of English Book Award for Junior Scholars. My subsequent books include the essay collection Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies (Routledge, 2011) and the anthology Secret Commissions: An Anthology of Victorian Investigative Journalism (Broadview, 2012). My latest book is titled The Untold Story of the Talking Book (Harvard University Press, 2016).
In the 2017-18 academic year, I am teaching on:
- ESH279: Victorian Fictions
- ESH380: Victorian Sensation Fiction
- ESH6038: Serial Storytelling from Dickens to The Wire
And for postgraduate courses I am teaching on:
- The Victorian Novel
- Media History and Digital Humanities
- History of the Book and Reading Practices
- Audiobooks and Sound Studies
- Disability Studies and Blindness
Recent and On-Going Research
My research interests include modern literature, media, and reading practices. My first book, The Novelty of Newspapers: Victorian Fiction after the Invention of the News (Oxford, 2009), was awarded the European Society for the Study of English Book Award for Junior Scholars. This was followed by Secret Commissions: An Anthology of Victorian Investigative Journalism (Broadview, 2012), which documents how unsparing descriptions of poverty and social injustice became a regular feature of English journalism. Guardian journalist Nick Davies describes it as ‘a book full of amazing stuff—Victorian in its facts, but contemporary in its themes’.
My subsequent work continues to explore how writers address the relationship between literature and new media. Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies (Routledge, 2011) is the first essay collection to address the significance of recorded literature by authors ranging from Charles Dickens to Toni Morrison and Barack Obama. My latest book is titled The Untold Story of the Talking Book (Harvard University Press, 2016), recipient of a Certificate of Merit in the 2017 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Award for Excellence.
You can learn about my exhibition for the first annual Being Human Festival at ‘How We Read: A Sensory History of Books for Blind People’. You can also find out more about my research on my blog ‘Audiobook History’, social media such as Twitter (@mattrubery), and literary publications such as the Los Angeles Review of Books. My research has been generously supported by grants or fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Arts & Humanities Research Council; Bibliographical Society of America; British Academy; British Library; Humanities Center at Oregon State University; Leverhulme Trust; National Endowment for the Humanities; Oregon State University Humanities Center; University of Pennsylvania Humanities Forum; and Wellcome Trust.
My commitment to public engagement has led me to work with various media outlets. My interviews can be heard on BBC Radio, National Public Radio, and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation or seen in the Guardian, Independent, Times, and Smithsonian Magazine. My writing has appeared in AudioFile Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, and the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.
My longstanding partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has resulted in a documentary for RNIB Connect Radio along with other commemorative events. My exhibition for the first annual Being Human Festival can be visited online at ‘How We Read: A Sensory History of Books for Blind People’.
The Untold Story of the Talking Book (Harvard University Press, 2016)
The Novelty of Newspapers: Victorian Fiction after the Invention of the News (Oxford University Press, 2009)
Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies, ed. Matthew Rubery (Routledge, 2011)
Secret Commissions: An Anthology of Victorian Investigative Journalism, ed. Stephen Donovan and Matthew Rubery (Broadview, 2012)
‘From Shell Shock to Shellac: The Great War, Blindness, and Britain’s Talking Book Library’, Twentieth Century British History 26.1 (2015): 1-25.
‘Thomas Edison’s Poetry Machine’, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 18 (2014)
‘Canned Literature: The Book after Edison’, Book History, 15 (2012)
‘The Victorian Walkman’, Victorian Review: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Victorian Studies 38.2 (Fall 2012): 9-13.
‘Margins of Print: Ephemera, Print Culture, and Lost Histories of the Newspaper’, Introduction (with H.G. Cocks) to special issue of Media History 18.1 (2012): 1-5
‘Victorian Print Culture, Journalism, and The Novel’, Literature Compass 7.4 (March 2010): 290-300
Roundtable on Géraldine Muhlmann, A Political History of Journalism for Media History 16.4 (2010): 423-27
‘Victorian Literature Out Loud: Digital Audio Resources for the Classroom’, Journal of Victorian Culture14.1 (April 2009): 134-40
‘Henry James, in Short’, the Henry James Review 29.3 (Fall 2008): 222-228
‘Bleak House in Real Time’, English Language Notes 46.1 (Spring/Summer 2008): 113-18
‘Play It Again, Sam Weller: New Digital Audiobooks and Old Ways of Reading’, Journal of Victorian Culture 13.1 (Spring 2008): 58-79
‘Wishing to Be Interviewed in Henry James’s The Reverberator’, Henry James Review 28.1 (February 2007): 57-72
‘Unspoken Intimacy in Henry James’s “The Papers”’, Nineteenth-Century Literature 61.3 (December 2006): 343-367
‘Joseph Conrad’s “Wild Story of a Journalist”’, ELH 71.3 (Fall 2004): 751-774
‘A Transatlantic Sensation: Stanley’s Search for Livingstone and the Anglo-American Press’, in U.S. Popular Print Culture, 1860-1920 (Oxford History of Popular Print Culture Series), ed. Christine Bold (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011)
‘Journalism’, in The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Culture, ed. Francis O’Gorman (Cambridge University Press, 2010): 177-94
‘Journalism’, in Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Novel and Novel Theory, ed. Peter Logan (Oxford: Blackwell, 2011): 455-59
‘Science and Technology’, in Conrad in Context, ed. Allan H. Simmons (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009): 237-44
‘The Harvard Vocarium’, United States Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry (August 2014)
‘Talking Books’, Nineteenth-Century Disability: A Digital Reader (March 2013)
‘On Henry Morton Stanley’s Search for Dr. Livingstone, 1871-72’, BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net (February 2012)
I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.
- ‘Are Any Books Truly Unrecordable?’ AudioFile Magazine (April/May 2017): 10-11.
- Interviewed for ‘Read On Air’ Episode 1 ‘The History of the Talking Book’, RNIB Connect Radio (January 13, 2017)
- Interviewed for Catherine Nixey, ‘Let me tell you a story: Why the stars want to do audiobooks’, The Times (January 9, 2017)
- Interviewed for ‘How the audiobook went from a resource for the blind to a popular form of storytelling’, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s ‘q’ (January 5, 2017)
- Interviewed for BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight (December 26, 2016)
- Interviewed for The Kindle Chronicles (December 23, 2016)
- Interviewed for ‘The Christmas Tale Spoken Record that Launched the Audiobook’, Smithsonian Magazine (December 2016), 17.
- Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Open Book’ (November 27, 2016)
- Interviewed for ‘World’s first audiobook tells its tale again’, The Times (November 22, 2016)
- Interviewed on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s ‘As It Happens’ (November 21, 2016)
- Interviewed for ‘Unique copy of first full-length audio book found in Canada’, Guardian (November 21, 2016)
- Interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR), ‘On Point’ (November 17, 2016)
- Interviewed on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Free Thinking’ (November 3, 2016)
- Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s World at One (October 17, 2016)
- Interviewed for Insight Radio’s ‘Talking Books at 80’ documentary (November 6, 2015)
- Interviewed on BBC Radio 3’s “Free Thinking” (7 April 2015)
- ‘From Shell Shock to Shellac: The Great War, Blindness, and Britain’s Talking Book Library’, BookBrunch (1 July 2014)
- Interviewed for ‘Does the Digital Age Spell the End of Braille?’ The Independent (21 May 2014)
- Interview: Shelagh Fogarty programme on BBC Radio 5 Live (21 May 2014)
- Interview: ‘Q&A with Newspaper Researchers: Matthew Rubery’ for Europeana Newspapers (8 January 2014)
- ‘Audiobooks before Audiobooks: Matthew Rubery Interviews Barbara Holdridge’, Los Angeles Review of Books (18 August 2013)
- '“Talking to Myself”: An Interview with Toni Morrison’ (28 June 2013)
- Interviewed by Michael Rosen on BBC Radio 4’s “Word of Mouth” (22 January 2013)
- 14 short documentary videos on literary topics for Deepbook Productions’ electronic book edition of Dickens’s Great Expectations (2011)
- Podcast recording with Josey Packard and Christina Davis for Harvard’s Woodberry Poetry Room: “On Harvard Vocarium Founder Frederick C. Packard” (2012)