Dr David Barnes

I research across Victorian (especially late-Victorian) and modernist writing, with two major emphases: transnational/transatlantic literature, and environmental humanities. I’m particularly interested in the role of cities in the modern cultural imaginary. My first book, The Venice Myth (2014) explored the ways in which the contested politics and history of Venice shaped a range of literary and cultural responses from 1800 to the present, examining the impact of the Risorgimento, civic nationalism, and Fascism.

Current research interests focus on two areas of interest. The first lies in exploring a range of transatlantic cultural exchanges in the late 19th and early 20th century. White Modernities: Transatlantic Writing and New Imperialism 1898-1945 (contract, Oxford University Press) will be a book examining the ways in which ideologies of empire and race condition or determine the forms of exchange – literary and cultural – between Europe and the Americas. Authors of interest here include Henry James, Edith Wharton, D.H. Lawrence and Langston Hughes. The US’s imperial turn is conceived here as a framework by which national and racial identities are performed in these texts.

Urban Animals is a project focusing on the role of the animal in the modern city, and features a range of literary figures, from Dickens to Virginia Woolf, Bram Stoker to T.S. Eliot. I explore the ways in which the digressive, destabilising and sometimes subversive presences of animals are fundamental to the way the development of the modern city is received.



I teach across nineteenth and twentieth-century periods, teaching on the following papers:

Literature in English 1830-1910

Literature in English 1910-present

Introduction to Literature (Paper 1b)

I've also supervised undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations on a range of twentieth-century, contemporary, and Victorian topics. 

I studied English at Oxford as an undergraduate; I then moved to London to work in journalism, before completing an MA and PhD at Queen Mary, University of London. After completing my PhD, I was a postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the University of Birmingham, before holding various teaching and research positions in Oxford. I’ve also held visiting research fellowships at the Harrison Institute, University of Virginia (2017) and Senate House Library, University of London (2022).

I also continue to write in other media, including radio, where I occasionally produce and present programmes. In 2021, I co-produced Regarding the Pain of Others for BBC Radio 3/World Service (link here https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000wkjm). In 2019 I wrote and presented Escape of the Zebra (also for Radio 3) – a documentary that followed the dramatic escape of a Grevy’s zebra from London Zoo during the Blitz of 1941 (link here BBC Radio 3: Between the Ears - The Escape of the Zebra from the Zoo.) My writing has also appeared in The Times, Guardian, TLS, New European and Literary Hub.