Dr Michael H. Whitworth

I am currently working a project concerning on science, poetry, and specialization in the early twentieth century, which I expect to lead to a series of journal articles or a monograph.  This project considers the ways in which poets use scientific diction and imagery in their poetry, both as part of the revival of metaphysical poetry in the period and more broadly.  It will include work on Herbert Read, Michael Roberts, William Empson, C. Day Lewis, W. H. Auden, and Hugh MacDiarmid.  I am currently investigating whether to extend its chronological boundaries further back and/or forwards.

Other projects currently in process include a chapter on Oliver Lodge's popular science writing in the 1920s and a chapter on the relation of Hugh MacDiarmid poetry to dictionaries.

I have recently completed work on an edition of Virginia Woolf's Night and Day for Cambridge University Press, which will shortly be going into production.

In the longer future, I hope to work on science in later twentieth-century poetry, especially that in the late modernist tradition; to write on questions of literature and value; and to write on the use of scientific authority in literary criticism and theory. I also have plans for annotated editions of poetry and letters by writers studied as part of the science, poetry, and specialization project.

CPrelims: Literature in English 1830-1910 and 1910-present; Introduction to Literary Studies.
Finals: dissertations on literature 1900 to the present, especially modernism.
M.St.: C course on late modernist poetry; B course seminars.

Postgraduate Supervision:

I am supervising, or have supervised, the following Oxford D.Phil. theses:

Dihal, Kanta. ‘The Stories of Quantum Physics: Quantum Physics in Literature and Popular Science, 1900-present’ (current, co-supervised with Sally Shuttleworth).

Cole, Jennifer. 'American Poetry and the Emerging Social Sciences in the Early Twentieth Century’ (submitted and awaiting examination).

Foley, Hugh. 'Landscape and Empire in American Poetry from Elizabeth Bishop to Ben Lerner' (co-supervised with Lloyd Pratt; examined 2017).

Dawkins, Charlie. 'Modernism in mainstream magazines, 1910-1939: writers, readers, and the creation of audiences' (examined 2016).

Ludtke, Laura. 'Electric Lights and the "London-writer," 1880-1945' (examined 2015).

Stalla, Heidi. ‘Life is in the Manuscript: Virginia Woolf, Historiography, and the Mythical Method’ (primarily supervised by David Bradshaw; examined 2015).

Shackleton, David. 'Deep Time, The Subject and the Modernist Novel' (examined 2015).

Lutton, Alison. 'Authorship and the Production of Literary Value, 1982-2012: Bret Easton Ellis, Paul Auster, JT Leroy, and Tucker Max' (examined 2014)

Hodges, Liz. 'An Exploration of Sight and its Relationship with Reality in World War One and World War Two Literature' (examined 2014).

Taylor, Mark. 'The Impact of Evolutionary Biology on the Fiction of D.H. Lawrence' (examined 2013).

Day, Jonathan. 'Novel Sensations: Modernist Fictions and the Problem of Qualia' (examined 2013).

Eros, Paul James. '“One of the Most Penetrating Minds in England:” Gerald Heard and the British Intelligentsia of the Interwar Period' (primarily supervised by David Bradshaw; examined 2012).

Pratt-Smith, Stella. 'Creative sparks : literary responses to electricity, 1830-1880' (examined 2012).

Crossland, Rachel. 'Sharing the moment's discourse : Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence and Albert Einstein in the early twentieth century' (examined 2011).

Hay, Andrew. 'Correlation and Figuration: A study of Modernism’s conceptual couplings' (examined 2010).

After secondary education in Oxfordshire, I read English at St Anne's College, Oxford. At sixth-form college I had studied Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics alongside English; this background informed my interest as an undergraduate in Darwinism and Victorian literature, which in turn prompted my research work. My D.Phil. research, also undertaken at Oxford, concerned the reception of the new physics, particularly relativity theory, among British modernist writers. I taught at the University of Wales, Bangor, from 1995 to 2005, and in 2001 organized the 11th Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf. I returned to Oxford in 2005 as University Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature and Tutorial Fellow of Merton College.

My research is concerned with modernism, modernity, and modernist writers. I am still actively researching the relations of literature and science. A Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2005-07) enabled me to examine the use of scientific discourse by poets in the early twentieth century in the context of increasing disciplinary specialization. T. S. Eliot's prose is an important reference point; poets considered include Herbert Read, Hugh MacDiarmid, Michael Roberts, William Empson, C. Day Lewis, and W. H. Auden. I am co-founder of the British Society for Literature and Science and have served on its committee as Secretary, Chair, and Treasurer.

Writing Virginia Woolf (2005) broadened my interest in the contextualization of literature to include social and political contexts. My edition of Woolf's Night and Day (for CUP) will build on these interests. My interest in publishing history began in relation to popular science publishing, and was extended in my research on Woolf. I am working on a descriptive bibliography of Herbert Read, and have further interests in modernist periodicals and in literary anthologies. From 2008-2011 I was an editor of the Review of English Studies, and its reviews editor.

My college teaching covers the Victorian period and twentieth centuries. My faculty lectures and seminars concentrate on twentieth-century topics, including modernist poetry and Virginia Woolf.  I regularly teach on the M.St., and currently offer a 'C' option on late modernist poetry in America and Britain.  Current and recent D.Phil. supervision includes work on literature, technology, and science in both the twentieth and nineteenth centuries, theories of modernism, and concepts of authorship.  I would welcome inquiries from prospective D.Phil. students in these areas and those interested in other aspects of twentieth-century literature.


College Website


  • Virginia Woolf, Night and Day

  • Virginia Woolf - Mrs Dalloway

  • Virginia Woolf (Authors in Context)

  • Culture and Leisure in Hugh MacDiarmid’s ’On a Raised Beach’

  • Einstein's Wake Relativity, Metaphor, and Modernist Literature

  • More
List of site pages