Personal profile

Biography

I am Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century English Literature at The University of Manchester, where I joined the Department of English, American Studies, and Creative Writing in 2023. I studied at the University of York and worked as a journalist before taking my AHRC-funded PhD at King’s College London, and I was Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture at King's from 2021 to 2023. My monograph Churchyard Poetics: Landscape, Labour, and the Legacy of Genre is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.

Research interests

  • Eighteenth-century and Romantic-period poetry – especially women poets, the mid-eighteenth century, and labouring-class poetry
  • Poetic form and genre; aesthetic theory – particularly style, tone, technique; queer poetics; the body and materiality in the history and theory of poetry
  • Cultural and intellectual history of the long eighteenth century – especially gender and sexuality, natural history, and material culture
  • Queer, feminist, and critical race perspectives on the literature and culture of the long eighteenth century
  • Environmental humanities: ecocriticism, new materialisms, posthumanism, queer and feminist ecologies

My first monograph, Churchyard Poetics: Landscape, Labour, and the Legacy of Genre, recovers the churchyard as the troubled centre of eighteenth-century poetry. Revising the limited category of ‘graveyard poetry’, I trace the churchyard’s persistent presence in work by women and labouring-class poets such as Mary Leapor, Ann Yearsley, Charlotte Smith, and John Clare, whose work reshapes this familiar terrain in literary history. Their poems confirm the churchyard’s status as a contested space of social life through a shared focus on the unignorable presence of the body, as the phenomenological tether pulling us to earth in the here and now of material life. Working with this difficult material in a markedly ambivalent poetic register conscious of the unsettled structures of feeling consequent on living in history, the poets in my study use genres invested in the landscape of social life – georgic, pastoral, elegy, and topographical poetry – to render the corporeal impressions of the churchyard as a space in which the social life of the body could be deeply felt and powerfully represented.

My current project is provisionally titled Queer Conventionality: Styles of Quiet Critique. I am using perspectives from poetics and gender and sexuality studies to reassess the work of Romantic-period women poets, or ‘poetesses’, often dismissed as derivative: Phillis Wheatley Peters, Charlotte Smith, Ann Yearsley, Mary Robinson, Felicia Hemans, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, and others. I propose that the apparently conventional surfaces of their poetry – in which high feelings are controlled by ‘fixed forms’, traditional genres, and predictable affective postures coded as sentimental – cover a range of quiet, subdued, fleeting, or other low frequencies of social critique. Paradoxically, the hyper-expressivity of poetess poetics operates as a conventional performance of gender and sexuality, providing a patina beneath which more understated but nonetheless contrary desires might emerge. In Queer Conventionality I draw on recent work on style, tone, and ‘weak theory’ in aesthetics, alongside queer studies’ abiding interest in nonheroic, improvisatory forms of resistance to norms of gendered and sexualized being, in which what looks like complicity might limn the borderline between constraint and potential. In doing so I claim quiet critique as a style in which women poets of the Romantic period tentatively articulate alternatives to the conventions of gender, sexuality, and poetics which their work seems to define. Not so much a radical refusal as something more pragmatic – a poetics of the possible in uneasy compliance with things as they are – quiet critique as a style and a strategy for survival skims a stone across the shallows of the status quo, revealing in ripples a glimpse of what might be otherwise.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Areas of expertise

  • PR English literature
  • PN0080 Criticism
  • PN0441 Literary History
  • HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
  • HT Communities. Classes. Races

Keywords

  • Poetics
  • Eighteenth-Century Studies
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Labour
  • Body
  • women's literature
  • environmental humanities
  • Aesthetics
  • Critical theory
  • Literary criticism
  • Formalism
  • Marxism

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