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Clara Dawson


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Personal profile


I joined the Department at Manchester in September 2014, after posts at Birmingham University and University of Edinburgh. I have held visiting research fellowships at Baylor University (US, autumn 2013), the Central European University (Budapest, autumn 2017) and a visiting teaching fellowship at the University of Hong Kong (autumn 2018). 

As a specialist in poetry of the long nineteenth century, my research has developed along two pathways: print culture and environmental humanities. My early career focused on print culture and resulted in a monograph, Victorian Poetry and the Culture of Evaluation (Oxford University Press, 2020). It developed new methodologies for analysing poetry and periodicals, a significant development in a field dominated by archival theory and book history. Research published since my monograph has focused on the gift annual, an important and under-researched area of Romantic and Victorian print culture. My contributions (in the most prestigious journal for Romanticism, Studies in Romanticism and a book chapter in The 1820s: Paradox and Change) develop new aesthetic categories for the gift annual and situate it in wider currents of Romantic and Victorian literature. My new research project on avian poetics takes an interdisciplinary approach and is based in the field of environmental humanities. The project combines poetry, natural history, and conservation science. 

Research interests

My main research interests are in the poetry of the long nineteenth century, and I have published on poetry from the Romantic period to the First World War. My published research to date has focused on poetry and print culture but I am now turning towards environmental humanities and am about to begin work on a new project on poetry and birds. You can find out more about this, and my work with Cheshire Wildlife Trust, here:

My monograph, Victorian Poetry and the Culture of Evaluation, is forthcoming with Oxford University Press in February 2020. Victorian Poetry and the Culture of Evaluation argues that the dialectic and dynamic relationship between the periodical review and poetry creates a culture of evaluation which shapes Victorian poetic form. The mediation of poetry by the periodical review orients poets towards public readership and reception, heightening their self-consciousness about their audience and generating a poetics of publicness.  Challenging the critical binaries of fame and celebrity, the culture of evaluation posits a new way of reading Victorian poetry. It illuminates poets’ engagement with the immediacy and inevitability of writing for the present and for the contemporary media through which poetry was read and disseminated.

I have done extensive research into literary periodical reviews and have published a two-volume edition, Critical Heritage: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, anthologising periodical reviews of her poetry. I have published on both Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, my two favourite Victorian poets. I am currently working on an article and a book chapter on the poetry published in gift annuals in the 1820s and 1830s. 

I would be interested in supervising postgraduates on topics concerning Romantic and Victorian poetry and poetics; nineteenth-century print culture; the Brownings; nineteenth-century literature and environmental humanities;

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Sustainable Futures
  • Creative Manchester


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