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University of Oxford Faculty of English

Douglas-Fairhurst, Robert

Position: Professor of English Literature; Tutorial Fellow, Magdalen College

College: Magdalen
Period/Subject: Victorians

Email address:

Research Interests:

I completed my BA at the University of Cambridge in 1990, before spending a year as a Procter Visiting Fellow at Princeton University. In 1992 I started a PhD at Cambridge, which I completed in 1998. I was elected to a Junior Research Fellowship at Fitzwilliam College in 1995, and the following year I joined Emmanuel College as a Fellow in English. I moved to Magdalen College, Oxford, in 2002 as a Fellow and Tutor and CUF Lecturer in English Language and Literature. In 2015 I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

I have published widely in the field of nineteenth-century literature. Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist (Harvard University Press, 2011), was featured on ‘The Review Show’ (BBC2), and won the 2012 Duff Cooper Prize for biography; it was also selected as a book of the year in the Irish Times, Library Journal, New Statesman, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, TLS, and Wall Street Journal, and has since been translated into Chinese. The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland (Harvill Secker; Harvard University Press, 2015) was an Editor’s Choice in the New York Times, and was featured on Start the Week (BBC R4) and BBC Breakfast (BBC1); it was also chosen as a Book of the Week on Radio 4, read by Simon Russell Beale, and was one of Time Magazine’s Top 10 books of 2015. 


Teaching Areas:

I teach across the undergraduate syllabus, including Paper 1 (Introduction to English Language and Literature), English Literature 1760-1830, English Literature 1830-1910, and English Literature 1910-present, plus various special authors and special topics. At graduate level, I currently teach on the 1830-1914 MSt and supervise a number of doctoral students. I was Chair of Moderators in 2010-12, and Deputy Chair of the English Faculty 2014-16, while at Magdalen I served as a Dean of Arts in 2005-11 and 2012-13.


Recent Publications:


•    Victorian Afterlives: The Shaping of Influence in Nineteenth-Century Literature (OUP, 2002; paperback 2004)

•    (ed.) Charles Dickens, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and other Christmas Books (OUP World’s Classics, 2006)

•    (ed.) Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (OUP World’s Classics, 2008)

•    (ed. with Seamus Perry, and introduction), Tennyson Among the Poets (OUP, 2009)

•    (ed.) Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor: A Selected Edition (OUP, 2010)

•    Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist (Harvard University Press, 2011)

•    (ed.) Charles Kingsley, The Water-Babies (OUP, 2013)

•     The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland (Harvill Secker; Harvard University Press, 2015)


Chapters and articles:

•    ‘Tennyson’s Weeds’, in Victorian Shakespeare, ed. Gail Marshall and Adrian Poole (Palgrave, 2003), 2:114-130.

•    ‘Making Sense of Victorian Endings’, The Use of English 54:3 (Summer 2003), 199-210.

•    ‘Young Tennyson and ‘Old Fitz’’, Tennyson Research Bulletin 8:2 (November 2003), 69-84.

•    ‘I. A. Richards’s Practical Criticism’, Essays in Criticism 54:4 (October 2004), 373-89.

•    ‘Old bags and ‘the old style’: a new source for Beckett’s Happy Days?’, Notes and Queries NS 52:4 (December 2005), 502-505.

•    ‘A. C. Bradley’s Shakespearean Tragedy’, The Use of English 57:2 (Spring 2006), 126-36.

•    ‘I. A. Richards’, Oxford Encyclopaedia of British Literature (OUP, 2006)

•    ‘A. E. Housman’s Rejected Addresses’, Proceedings of the British Academy 151: 2006 Lectures (2008)

•    ‘Tragedy and Disgust’, in Tragedy in Transition, ed. Sarah Brown (Blackwell, 2007)

•    ‘Alexander Pope: renowned in rhyme’, in Literary Milieaux, ed. David Womersley and Richard McCabe (University of Delaware Press, 2008)

•    ‘Dickens’ in The Cambridge Companion to English Novelists ed. Adrian Poole (CUP, 2009)

•    ‘Tennyson’ in The Cambridge History of English Poetry ed. Michael O’Neill  (CUP, 2010)

•    ‘Tennyson’s Beginnings’, Essays in Criticism (January 2010)

•    ‘Dickens’s Rhythms’ in Dickens and Style ed. Daniel Tyler (CUP, 2013)

•    ‘Address’ in The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Poetry ed. Matthew Bevis (OUP, 2013)

Forthcoming publications include essays on memory, comedy, and the Victorian home.


Other Information:

Editor of The Tennyson Research Bulletin (2004-2011).

•    Series editor of Anthem Press Nineteenth-Century Studies (2002-present).

•    Reviewer and features writer for publications including the Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, Guardian, Times, Art Newspaper, TLS, and Vogue; columnist for the Oxford Times 2012-13.

•    Historical advisor on adaptations of Jane Eyre (BBC1, 2006), Emma (BBC1, 2009), and Great Expectations (BBC1, 2011), ’The Secret World of Lewis Carroll’ (BBC2, 2015), and the forthcoming 20-part series Dickensian (BBC1, 2015-16).

•    Recent radio and television programmes include ‘Start the Week’ (BBC R4, 2010 and 2015), ‘Mrs Dickens’s Family Christmas’ (BBC, 2011), ‘Lingua Franca’ (ABC Radio National Australia, 2012), ‘The Charlie Rose Show’ (PBS, 2012), 'Queen Victoria's Children' (BBC2, 2013), ‘Open Book’ (BBC R4, 2013), BBC Breakfast (BBC1, 2015), and ‘On Point’ (NPR, 2015). 

•  Recent lectures or talks in Auckland, Bologna, Cambridge, Charlottsville, Dundee, Edinburgh, Hong Kong, London, Newcastle, New York, Santa Cruz, Singapore, and Tulane. 

•  Judge of the Man Booker Prize (2013).


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