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Dr Richard Jones

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Professional biography

I studied English Literature at the University of York (BA) and the University of Oxford (MPhil and DPhil). Before joining the English Department in 2014, I spent several years working as an editor, which included developing distance-learning materials for the OU, and teaching as an Associate Lecturer.

Research interests

In his autobiography, David Hume (1711–76) speaks of ‘a passion for literature, which has been the ruling passion of my life’. But what did Hume mean by ‘literature’? Certainly, he did not mean an academic discipline or a section of a bookshop (as this might be taken to mean today). The reason I like Hume’s words is that they point us towards a literature – a passion for literature – that comes before the discipline. My research has therefore focused on the literature of the eighteenth century. Hume might have described it as ‘general learning’; it draws attention to a form of knowledge that appears as and through the work of writing.

For me, the Scottish writer Tobias Smollett (1721–71) – and friend of Hume – provides a way to explore this approach to literature. Smollett’s reputation has never been entirely secure: he is (not quite) a novelist, (not quite) a historian, (not quite) a critic or physician or translator, (not quite) a playwright or poet; he is also (not quite) a hack. Smollett probably wrote more words than any of his contemporaries; even so, he is perhaps not quite the writer we wish him to have been. In my research, I have turned to Smollett’s periodical work – for example, on the Critical Review (from 1756) and the Complete History of England (1757–8) and Continuation (1760–65) – to try to understand the task that he had set himself. This develops previous research into Smollett as a writer of the Scottish Enlightenment. My book, Tobias Smollett in the Enlightenment: Travels through France, Italy and Scotland (2011), was published by Bucknell University Press as part of the series Transits: Literature, Thought & Culture 1650–1850. In this book, I recover Smollett’s identity as a Scottish historian and critic by reading one of his works, Travels through France and Italy (1766), in various literary contexts (notably, Scottish writings on medicine, art, theatre and history).

In May 2021, I convened a two-day conference to mark the three-hundredth anniversary of Smollett’s birth, with the Institute of English Studies, University of London, and the History of Books and Reading (HOBAR) research collaboration at the OU. Some of my wider interests in philosophy and literature are also reflected in my occasional blog, antiphysis.

Recent publications

'The pamphlet on the table': The life and adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves', in Paul Poplawski (ed.), Studying English Literature in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2022); doi: 10.1017/9781108782999

'The eighteenth-century review journal as allegory: Smollett’s Critical Review and the work of criticism', The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, vol. 60, no. 1 (2019), pp. 45–63; doi: 10.1353/ecy.2019.0004

'Continued continuations of complete histories: Tobias Smollett and the work of history', Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 41, no. 3 (2018), pp. 391–406; doi: 10.1111/1754-0208.12525

'Tobias Smollett and the work of writing’, Literature Compass, vol. 15, no. 8 (2018); doi: 10.1111/lic3.12485 

Conferences and papers 

'"This, all put together, forms Launcelot Greaves": Tobias Smollett, literature and the novel' (keynote lecture at 'Novel Histories: New Approaches to Eighteenth-Century Fiction' conference, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, 2022)

‘Tobias Smollett at 300: the work of writing’ (organiser of a two-day international conference with the Institute of English Studies, University of London, and the OU History of Books and Reading research collaboration, May 2021)

'Tobias Smollett: Empty Author' (ISECS International Congress on the Enlightenment, Edinburgh, 2019)

'Tobias Smollett writes the history of England’ (ASECS Annual Conference, Minneapolis, 2017)

‘Tobias Smollett and David Hume’ (OU/IES Book History Research Group Seminar Series, London, 2016)

Teaching interests

I chaired the production of A111 Discovering the arts and humanities (which presented for the first time in October 2019). This module provides a multi-disciplinary introduction to the study of the arts and humanities; it is compulsory for all qualifications in the arts and humanities undergraduate programme. What appeals to me about the module is the opportunity it offers to ask big questions: what do we mean when we say that we are studying the arts and humanities? What does this help us to know? I continued to chair the module in presentation from 2019-22.

I am currently the Deputy Director of Teaching in School of Arts and Humanities and the Lead for Level 1 (first-year undergraduate study). My previous experience at Level 1 includes being a member of the module presentation team for A105 Voices, texts and material culture (which, from 2020, was replaced with A112 Cultures and A113 Revolutions); I taught on the previous first-level introductory module, AA100, for many years.

I am currently part of a team producing a new second-level English module. This includes writing a unit on Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads. I have previously contributed units on Molière’s Tartuffe and Rousseau’s Confessions to a third-level English module, A334 English literature from Shakespeare to Austen. I have also been part of the presentation team for the second-level English module A230 Reading and studying literature. I am currently a representative for the School of Arts and Humanities on the Faculty’s Teaching Committee; I am also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


The eighteenth-century review journal as allegory: Smollett’s Critical Review and the work of criticism (2019-07-02)
Jones, Richard J.
The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 60(1) (pp. 45-63)

Tobias Smollett and the work of writing (2018-08-23)
Jones, Richard J.
Literature Compass, 15, Article e12485(8)

Continued Continuations of Complete Histories: Tobias Smollett and the Work of History (2018-08-20)
Jones, Richard J.
Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 41(3) (pp. 391-406)

Tobias Smollett in the Enlightenment: Travels through France, Italy and Scotland (2011-11)
Jones, Richard J.
Transits: Literature, Thought & Culture 1650-1850
ISBN : 9781611480481 | Publisher : Bucknell University Press | Published : Lewisburg

‘The pamphlet on the table’: The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves (2022-10-13)
Jones, Richard J
In: Poplawski, Paul ed. Studying English Literature in Context (pp. 183-198)
ISBN : 9781108479288 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge