I specialize in literature and culture of the long eighteenth century, with particular interests in theatre, the relationship between literary and visual cultures, satire and parody, the construction of literary history, and the cultural history of Shakespeare. At present I'm especially concerned with questions of visuality and I'm in the early stages of a new project that tracks practices and concepts of spectacle across the period.
Politics and Performance
My first book, Theatres of Opposition: Empire, Revolution, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan (OUP, 2012) considered Sheridan – playwright, theatre manager, politician – as a prism through which the dynamic and often fraught exchange between theatrical and opposition political cultures at the end of the eighteenth century could be more precisely mapped. I've also edited The Oxford Handbook of the Georgian Theatre, 1737-1832 (OUP, 2014; pbk. 2018) and published articles and essays that consider writers spanning the long eighteenth century – from Rochester to Wordsworth and from Johnson to Edgeworth and Byron – through the many lenses of performance.
Visual satire and/as literary history
My new book, The Politics of Parody: A Literary History of Caricature, 1760–1830 (Yale UP, 2018) offers the first in-depth study of the relationship between literature and visual satire in eighteenth-century Britain. Attending to the ways in which political caricatures parody works by the likes of Shakespeare, Milton, and Swift, I consider how the characters, narratives, and tropes of key literary texts provided satirists and commentators with a means of negotiating and rendering legible complex political issues, crises, and personalities – a means that brought cultural capital and political literacy into very tight relation. I argue that the critical operations of caricature’s parodic play often open up the formal and historical contours of literary genres; and I contend that such satire repeatedly strives to define (and defend) high literary culture against the perceived encroachments of the “popular”, a manoeuvre complicated by caricature’s uneasy sense of its own cultural status. But the book's most important argument is its methodology, which insists that we have much to learn by constructing literary history from materials – especially visual ephemera – still too often considered to lie beyond the discipline’s purview.
As part of this project, I also curated the exhibition “Draw New Mischief: 250 Years of Shakespeare and Political Cartoons” for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2017-18 (more information here).
I'm currently completing an edition of Joseph Addison’s dramatic works for Oxford University Press, which will include the first critical edition of Cato.
I'm also beginning work on a new history of spectacle from the Restoration to the Romantic period. This study contends that the theatre – as a visual art, a site of spectatorship, and an idea or metaphor – was a primary means through which eighteenth-century culture negotiated and contested questions of visuality, most especially the always-vexed relationship between word and image.
At. St. Hugh’s, I teach British literature from 1660-1830 and also the Shakespeare paper. For the Faculty, I lecture on drama from the late seventeenth century to the nineteenth century and also teach on the MSt in English 1700-1830.
I supervise graduate students at both MSt and DPhil level, and would be pleased to hear from potential students who’d like to undertake research in any of my areas of interest, or in literary history from 1660-1830 more broadly.
Projects by recent doctoral students include:
- The politics of the comic in the 1790s
- Forms of belonging in Jane Austen
- Religion on the Restoration stage
- "Johnson's Textual Landscape." The Eighteenth-Century: Theory and Interpretation 59.1 (2018): 65-84
- "Graphic Satire and the Enlightenment Eye." Critical Quarterly 59.4 (2017): 34-53.
- "The Practice of Caricature in Eighteenth-Century Britain." Literature Compass 14.5 (2017).
- “Byron, Sheridan, and the Afterlife of Eloquence.” Review of English Studies 65 (2014): 474-94.
- “Edgeworth’s Belinda and the Gendering of Caricature.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 26.4 (2014): 593-624.
- “The Disenchanted Island: A Political History of The Tempest, 1760-1830.” Shakespeare Quarterly 63.4 (Winter 2012): 487-517.
- “Discoveries and Recoveries in the Laboratory of Georgian Theatre.” New Theatre Quarterly 27.3 (2011): 229-243.
- “Godwin, Sheridan, and the Theatre of Politics.” Bodleian Library Record 24.1 (2011): 80-87.
- “Coalition Dances: Georgian Caricature’s Choreographies of Power.” Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography 36 (2011): 117-130.
- “‘The Fate of Empires’: The American War, Political Parody, and Sheridan’s Comedies.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 42.2 (2009): 379-95.
- “Wordsworth at the Theater: Illegitimate Spectacle in Book 7 of The Prelude.” European Romantic Review 20.1 (2009): 77-93.
- "Cato and the Crisis of Rhetoric," in Essays on Addison, ed. Paul Davis (Oxford University Press, 2019). Forthcoming.
- "Staging the War at Sea: Race, Re-enactment, Nationhood," in The Cultural History of the Sea: The Long Eighteenth Century, ed. Jonathan Lamb (Bloomsbury, 2019). Forthcoming.
- "The Practice of Parody," in The Oxford Handbook of Eighteenth-Century Satire, ed. Paddy Bullard (Oxford University Press, 2018-19). Forthcoming.
- “Gillray's Gulliver and the 1803 Invasion Scare,” in The Afterlives of Eighteenth-Century Fiction, ed. Daniel Cook and Nicholas Seager (Cambridge University Press, 2015), 212-32.
- “Rochester, the Playhouse, and Restoration Theatricality,” in Lord Rochester in the Restoration World, ed. Matthew C. Augustine and Steven N. Zwicker (Cambridge University Press, 2015), 121-40.
- “Theatre Managers and the Managing of Theatre History,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Georgian Theatre, 1737-1832, ed. Julia Swindells and David Francis Taylor (Oxford University Press, 2014), 70-88.
- “Caricaturing Sheridan,” in Richard Brinsley Sheridan: The Impresario in Political and Cultural Context, ed. Jack DeRochi and Daniel Ennis (Bucknell University Press, 2012), 259-83.
- “Shakespeare and Drama,” in Shakespeare in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Gail Marshall (Cambridge University Press, 2012), 129-47.
- Entries for Emily; or, The History of a Natural Daughter (1756), Herbert Lawrence's The Life and Adventures of Common Sense (1769), and Edward Henry Iliff's Angelo, A Novel (1796), in The Cambridge Guide to the Eighteenth-Century Novel, 1660-1820, ed. April London (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press).
- “Sheridan, Richard Brinsley,” in The Encyclopedia of British Literature 1660-1789, ed. Jack Lynch and Gary Day (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), 1143-9.
- Review of Fredrick Burwick, British Drama of the Industrial Revolution, in Romanticism 23.2 (2017), 192-5.
- Review of Lisa A. Freeman, Antitheatricality and the Body Public, in Review of English Studies (2017).
- Review of Helen Edmundson's Queen Anne, dir. Natalie Abrahami, Royal Shakespeare Company (Criticks, 15 Dec. 2015).
- Review of William Congreve's Love for Love, dir. Selina Cadell, Royal Shakespeare Company (Criticks, 5 Dec. 2015).
- Review of Nikki Hessell, Literary Authors, Parliamentary Reporters: Johnson, Coleridge, Hazlitt, Dickens, in Romanticism, 21.1 (2015), 101-3.
- Review of Handel, Hercules, dir. Peter Sellars, Canadian Opera Company (Criticks, 30 Apr. 2014).
- Review of Christopher Reid, Imprison’d Wranglers: The Rhetorical Culture of the House of Commons, 1760-1800, in BARS Bulletin and Review, 43 (2014).
- Review of Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, ed. David Womersley, in Notes and Queries, 60.4 (2013), 611-612.
- Review of Carl Maria von Weber, Der Freischütz, dir. Marshall Pynkoski, Opera Atelier (Criticks, 31 Oct. 2012).
- “Performative Subjects.” Huntington Library Quarterly 75.1 (2012): 113-121. Review essay.
- Review of Frederick Burwick, Romantic Drama: Acting and Reacting and Alexander Dick and Angela Esterhammer, eds., Spheres of Action: Speech and Performance in Romantic Culture, in European Romantic Review, 23.1 (Jan. 2012), 101-107.
- Review of Daniel O’Quinn, Staging Governance: Theatrical Imperialism in London, 1770–1800, in Romanticism, 14.2 (2008), 203-5.
- Review of John Barrell, The Spirit of Despotism: Invasions of Privacy in the 1790s, in Romanticism, 13.2 (2007), 189-191.
"Draw New Mischief"
In 2017, I curated an exhibition with the Royal Shakespeare Company entitled "Draw New Mischief: 250 years of Shakespeare and Political cartoons". The exhibition ran from February to October 2017 at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, with a version of it then transferring to the Barbican, London, until January 2018. It will featured cartoons inspired by Shakespeare's plays from the eighteenth century to the present day. In conjunction with the RSC's season of Shakespeare's Roman plays, we also commissioning five cartoonists to respond to current affairs using Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus.
Media coverage of the exhibition:
- I discussed the exhibition of BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking (21/2/17) with cartoonists Lorna Miller and Kevin "KAL" Kallaugher and MP Jess Phillips. You can listen to this episode here.
- A gallery of cartoons featured in the exhibition, with my curatorial comments, was published on the Guardian's website.
"Restoring the Repertoire"
In 2010 I worked with the Theatre Royal, Bury St. Edmunds as part of their "Restoring the Repertoire" project. The Theatre Royal, designed by William Wilkins (architect of the National Gallery), is the only working Regency playhouse in the country and was restored to its Georgian glory with the aid of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Reopening in 2007, the Theatre and its artistic director Colin Blumenau were committed to reviving the forgotten plays of the Georgian period through an exciting programme of rehearsed readings and full-scale productions.
During my time working with the Theatre Royal as a research consultant, I advised the company on its staging -- in rehearsed reading and full production -- of various eighteenth-century plays. I share the insights I acquired over the course of this collaboration in my article "Discoveries and Recoveries in the Laboratory of Georgian Theatre", New Theatre Quarterly 27.3 (2011): 229-243.
As an undergraduate I studied at the University of St. Andrews, before taking my MPhil and PhD at Cambridge. Before coming to Oxford in 2018 I taught at the Universities of Toronto and Warwick. I've held visiting fellowships at the Huntington Library, the Houghton Library at Harvard, and Cambridge University’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities. In 2013 I was awarded the Polanyi Prize for Literature by the Government of Ontario.