I trained at Oxford in the literature and culture of the Romantic period, studying with Jonathan Wordsworth, Marilyn Butler, and Paul Hamilton. In 1985, I took up a Frank Knox Fellowship to Harvard University and spent four years there, before moving to Northwestern University, Chicago. Ten years later, I came back to Oxford, before joining the Open University in 1999.
My research interests are based within the Romantic period but extend backwards into the eighteenth century and forwards into the nineteenth. In addition to an edition of Scott's Antiquary, two edited collections of essays, and many essays and articles, I have published three books. My first, Revolution and the Form of the British Novel 1790-1820 (OUP, 1994), dealt with the politics of novel-form in the period. England's Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy (OUP, 2002), my second book, was co-authored with Professor Michael Dobson and was a study of the afterlives of Elizabeth I in history, biography, fiction, poetry, drama, opera, film,and other media. My third monograph, The Literary Tourist: Readers and Places in Romantic and Victorian Britain (Palgrave, 2006) investigated the history of the phenomenon of literary tourism. Recent essays have dealt with the history of the 'Shakespeare garden', the emergence of 'Juliet's tomb' as a tourist destination, and the development of tourism associated with Rousseau and Jane Austen. My current full-length project, which I have just finished up, is entitled The Author’s Effects: A Cultural Poetics of the Writer's House Museum. The book deals with the emergence of the writer’s house museum as a genre through looking at a series of celebrated objects in writer's house museums and the cultural meanings they have carried over their lifetimes. If you would like to learn more about The Literary Tourist and The Author's Effects, please visit my research blog. I have also been increasingly working on the digital futures of writer's house museums; for one online exhibition devised recently for the Birthplace Trust, see 'Shakespeare and Literary Pilgrimage' at Trust http://collections.shakespeare.org.uk/
Looking ahead, the diary for 2018-19 includes continuing to act as Past-President of BARS (British Association for Romantic Studies) and Association Co-ordinator for ERA (European Romanticisms in Association), a pan-European association of scholarly institutions and heritage institutions devoted to the arts and culture of the Romantic period which we founded and launched at a meeting in Rome in late 2016. This association is devoted to running a series of European events distinguished by collaboration with local museums, galleries and archives; our first event was held at Chawton House Library and focussed on Jane Austen and Germaine de Stael to mark the joint anniversary of thir deaths; the next will be on Frankenstein and will be held at Bologna in September 2018. From 1 September 2018, we will be up and running with the newly AHRC-funded project on which I am PI, Dreaming Romantic Europe. We will be holding our first workshop, 'Consuming Romanticism', at the Maison de Chateaubriand, just outside Paris, in November 2018. Meanwhile, work on the associated online exhibition REVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition) continues; we now have 12 virtual exhibits on display andmany more forthcoming. For more on ERA and REVE go to http://www.euromanticism.org
Recent speaking engagements have included the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University; upcoming invitations include King's College, London, the University of Gottingen, and the University of Oslo.
Over my career at the OU I have developed undergraduate teaching material for the Open University (print, video, audio, and digital, automated) on a wide variety of subjects: the literature and culture of the late eighteenth century and romantic period, nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction, children’s literature, and travel-writing; I am presently developing teaching material on the literary fairy tale from Giambattista Basile via Charles Perrault, Madame d'Aulnoy and Hans Christian Andersen, through to Anne Sexton and Angela Carter. I’ve authored other material for undergraduate study on Shakespeare and tourism, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, Byron, Thomas de Quincey, Gustave Flaubert, Virginia Woolf, Louisa M. Alcott, J.M. Barrie and Daphne du Maurier. You can see some of my work on the Royal Pavilion at Brighton on OpenLearn.
I have chaired a number of teams responsible for the development and management of courses in production and presentation including A103 (An introduction to the humanities), A207 (From Enlightenment to Romanticism c.1780-1830), A230 (Reading and studying literature), and A300 (Twentieth-century literature). I presently have a strong interest in new modes of online teaching and learning, inventing short-form learning materials such as 1-minute cartoon introductions to literary theory Outside the book - OpenLearn - Open University, apps such as the Poetry Prescription Poetry Prescription - OpenLearn - Open University, and material supporting the BBC4 series The Secret Life of Books on OpenLearn The Secret Life of Books: Series Two - OpenLearn - Open University
At postgraduate level, I have supervised projects on topics ranging from Samuel Richardson, through William Blake, late eighteenth-century theatre, eighteenth-century fiction and the American wars, Charlotte Smith, mental illness and the Victorian novel, and modern children’s literature. I welcome approaches from students interested in the late eighteenth century and romantic period, historical fiction, travel-writing, place-writing, literary biography and afterlives, and forms of literary commemoration.
In addition to regularly speaking by invitation at academic conferences and symposia, I frequently give public lectures: at the Stratford Shakespeare Club, Dr Johnson’s House, the Edinburgh Scott Club, the Humanities Festival at the University of Lund in Sweden; the Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschäft in Vienna; the Humanities Festival at the University of Linköping, Sweden; Chawton House Library; the Johnson Society of London; the Oxford Italian Association; the York Festival of Ideas; The Burns Birthplace; and most recently in association with the Being Human Festival 2017. Media appearances have included slots on Woman’s Hour, a Time Team special on Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, an ‘audio postcard’ from Poet’s Corner in conversation with Andrew Motion ahead of the Royal Wedding for Radio 4’s The Sunday Programme, a programme on Oxford’s literary sites for Radio 4’s Night Waves; and BBC4’s series The Secret Life of Books.
Upcoming engagements include the restaging of an installation based on my research first shown at the York Festival of Ideas 2016 for MK Lit Fest 2018, and the devising of an event for the Cowper-Newton Museum at Olney.
I have acted as advisor and collaborator on a number of large funded projects to do with tourism and commemoration including: ‘Burns; The Object of Memory’ based in Edinburgh and Dundee; ‘Locating Imagination’, based at Rotterdam, ‘Shakespeare: Cultures of Commemoration’ based in Murcia, Spain, and ‘Writing Britain’s Ruins’ based in Stirling. I have acted as consultant on the redisplay of Shakespeare’s New Place for 2016 and on the upcoming redecelopment of Anne Hathaway's Cottage, and I am presently working with TRAUM on the futures of writer’s house museums in Norway.
My present large-scale collaboration is on the AHRC-funded Dreaming Romantic Europe (Co-I Prof Catriona Seth, All Souls, Oxford) which brings together scholarly associations and heritage organizations from across Europe to collaborate in the making of REVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition), which will eventually become a fully-searchable virtual museum and developed pedagogical resource. See: http://www.euromanticism.org