Professor of Poetry
The current Professor of Poetry is Professor Geoffrey Hill, who was elected in 2010 (view the news story here).
He will be giving one lecture each term for the five years of his tenure, and the details will be advertised on this site as soon as they are available.
His inaugural lecture was given on 30 November 2010 (view the news story here, or download the podcast here). In 2010-11, he also lectured on 8 March 2011 (download the podcast here) and 10 May 2011 (download the podcast here).
You can download the podcast of his first lecture of 2011-12, on the 29 November 2011 here. However the lectures of 6 March and 8 May 2012 unfortuately suffered from technical problems and therefore are not available for download. The podcast of the lecture given 27 November 2012 can be downloaded here. The podcast of Professor Hill's lecture given on the 5th March can now be downloaded here. The podcast for the lecture delivered on the 30th April 2013 can be downloaded here.
His next lecture will be on Tuesday 3rd December, Michaelmas Term week 8, at 5.30 p.m., in the Exam Schools, South School.
A new Professor of Poetry is appointed every five years. All members of convocation (which includes current members and graduates) are eligible to vote in the election. He or she must give a public lecture each term and the Creweian Oration at the University's honorary degree ceremony every other year.
The Professor of Poetry lectures were conceived in 1708 by Berkshire landowner Henry Birkhead and began after he bequeathed some money so it could be a valuable supplement to the curriculum. He believed ‘the reading of the ancient poets gave keenness and polish to the minds of young men as well as to the advancement of more serious literature both sacred and human’.
The first poetry professor, Joseph Trapp, took as his subject poetry in general. He was mainly concerned with the classical poets – particularly Roman writers. William Hawkins, professor from 1751 to 1756, was interested in drama and more modern works, and was renowned for quoting extensively (in Latin) from the works of Shakespeare during his lectures.
Many distinguished men of letters held the Chair in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, including two Thomas Wartons - both father and son - and the poet and religious leader John Keble. However, it was Keble´s godson, the great Victorian poet and critic Matthew Arnold, uniquely elected twice to the Professorship (in 1857 and 1862), who really created the Professorship in its modern form: Arnold spoke about literary matters of contemporary concern, and was the first Professor to deliver his lectures in English, as opposed to Latin.