Dr Michael J Sullivan

My interests span the poetics and verse cultures of the long nineteenth century, with publications on Victorian and Romantic literature and a special interest in the works of Tennyson, Byron, Wordsworth, and Dickinson.

Monograph & Journal Special Issues

Among my current projects is the first book-length study of Tennyson’s manuscript revisions, and their role in the development of his style. Its chapters examine how Tennyson’s notebooks record a series of profound shifts in the style of English verse and versification, stretching from the Romantics to the end of the nineteenth century. Uncovering new manuscripts from Cambridge, Lincoln, and Harvard, the monograph traces how literary modes – from the lyric to the epic – were altered on the page, as new movements modified the conventions of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Extensive archival research for this study was supported by a Rodney G. Dennis Visiting Fellowship in the Study of Manuscripts at the Houghton Library, Harvard, which gave me the resources to consult over 70 notebooks and 300 folders of Tennyson’s drafts and correspondence. Chapters arising from this research have been published in Essays in Criticism and Literary Imagination, and the resulting articles examine Tennyson’s selection of poems for The Golden Treasury (1861), the most influential lyric anthology of the nineteenth century. By considering the anthology’s fair copy alongside a rediscovered revision copy, the articles shed new light on Tennyson’s poetic influences, and on his aesthetic control over the formation of a Victorian literary canon.

Related to this monograph, I am Principal Investigator on a proposal for a large textual project on Alfred Tennyson, and am Guest Editor of Special Issues of the Tennyson Research Bulletin (forthcoming in 2020) and Victorian Poetry (2021). Since 2017, I have been an Executive Member and Trustee of the Tennyson Society, and in 2019 I organised an international conference in Tennyson Studies at Christ Church, Oxford.

Articles and Future Projects

I hold additional research interests in the development of genre in the nineteenth century, and in Byron, Shelley, the Brontës, the Brownings, Arnold, Wordsworth, and Keats. My thematic research interests include the development of the verse novel, print and manuscript cultures since 1700, lyric studies and the musicality of verse, the role of lyric anthologies in canon creation and periodisation, the origins and legacies of ‘Romanticism’, the influence of sceptical philosophy and aesthetics on English verse, Anglo-American intersections, editing and textual criticism, and temporality in narrative verse.

Dissertations supervised include work on Elizabeth Siddal and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the manuscripts of Emily Dickinson, Hopkins’s religious orders, Keats and absence, and Tennyson and mourning.


Poetry and prose from the eighteenth century to the present day. At Christ Church, I teach Prelims Papers 3 and 4 (Literature in English since 1830), as well as workshops on close reading manuscripts. In Cambridge, I supervised at Trinity, St John’s, Selwyn, Magdalene, Pembroke, and Emmanuel, for the third-year Lyric and Victorian papers, first- and third-year Practical Criticism, and second-year dissertations.

In Michaelmas 2019, I shall be lecturing on ‘Verse Forms in Manuscript: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Dickinson, and Gerard Manley Hopkins’.

For the M.St. in English 1830-1914, I have taught sessions on ‘Revision in Victorian Verse’, and am interested in supervising Master’s dissertations in any of my areas of research.

Journal Special Issues

1. ‘Editor’s Introduction’, Victorian Poetry, Special Issue on Alfred Tennyson (Spring 2021)

2. ‘Editorial Introduction: Vision and Elegy in Tennyson’s Verse’, Tennyson Research Bulletin, Special Issue (Winter 2020)

Journal Articles

3. ‘Alfred Tennyson and Frederick Goddard Tuckerman: An Omitted Page of Correspondence’, Notes & Queries, 64/1 (2017), 131-133

4. ‘Tennyson and The Golden Treasury’, Essays in Criticism, 66/4 (2016), 431-443

5. ‘Tennyson and The Golden Treasury: A Rediscovered Revision Copy’, Literary Imagination, 18/3 (2016), 230-238

6. ‘“The Controlless Core of Human Hearts”: Writing the Self in Byron’s Don Juan’, The Byron Journal, 42/2 (2014), 123-132

Reviews and Other Publications

7. ‘Dickinson’s Voice’, Essays in Criticism, 69/1 (2019), 103-109

8. ‘The Victorian Period (1830-1900)’, The Year’s Work in English Studies, 97/1 (2018), 693-888, co-authored

9. ‘The Victorian Period (1830-1900)’, The Year’s Work in English Studies, 96/1 (2017), 703-915, co-authored

10. ‘The Persistence of Beauty’, The Cambridge Quarterly, 45/4 (2016), 385-390

11. ‘Deborah Lutz, Relics of Death in Victorian Literature and Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015)’, Tennyson Research Bulletin, 10/5 (2016), 483-484

12. ‘Tennyson at Trinity’, The Fountain, 19 (2014), 12-13

Selected Conference & Seminar Papers

‘Tennyson, Burke, and the Sublimity of Song’, Romantic Research Seminar, University of Oxford (November 2019 – one-hour seminar paper)

‘“Singing in her Song”: Tennyson's Romantic Inheritance’, British Association for Romantic Studies International Conference, University of Nottingham (July 2019)

‘Silence and Sublimity in Tennyson’s Early Notebooks’, Inventions of the Text, University of Durham (May 2019 – invited, one-hour seminar paper)

‘Multiple Authorship and the Poetics of Voice’, Oxford Centre for Textual Editing and Theory Inaugural Conference (April 2019 – invited symposium paper)

‘Tennyson’s Notebooks and the Allegory of Art’, Tennyson Society Annual Conference, University of Oxford (March 2019)

‘Tennyson’s Swan Songs: Silence and Revision in The Lady of Shalott’, Literary Birds Conference, University of Durham (October 2018)

‘Tennyson and the Victorian Literary Canon’, Tennyson Society Annual Conference, Girton College, Cambridge (August 2016 – invited, one-hour lecture)

‘Tennyson’s Early Voice: Romantic Prophecy and the Lyrical Mode’, British Association for Romantic Studies: Romantic Voices Conference, University of Oxford (June 2016)

‘Elegy in Exile: Byron and the Poetic Experiments of 1816’, The Summer of 1816: A Bicentenary Conference, University of Sheffield (June 2016)

‘Tennyson and The Golden Treasury: A Rediscovered Proof Copy’, Conference in Editorial Studies, Boston Editorial Institute (April 2016)

‘Tennyson and the Victorian Literary Canon’, Trinity Arts and Humanities Symposium, University of Cambridge (March 2016)

‘Tennyson, Palgrave and the Poetic Tradition’, Nineteenth-Century Graduate Workshop, University of Cambridge (November 2015)

‘Tennyson and the Nineteenth-Century Lyric Anthology: Constructing a Victorian Canon’, British Association for Victorian Studies Annual Conference, Leeds Trinity University (August 2015)

‘“Notes of busy life in distant worlds”: Tennyson and the Voice of Antiquity’, Victorian Modernities Conference, University of Kent (June 2015)

‘Byronic Illusion and the Elegiac Mode’, Long-Eighteenth-Century Research in Progress Seminar, University of Oxford (November 2014)

‘“The Controlless Core of Human Hearts”: Writing the Self in Byron’s Don Juan’, Adam’s Dream: Imaginative Incarnations in the Long Eighteenth Century, University of Cambridge (April 2013)

‘Chaotic Imaginings in the Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley’, University of Durham (June 2012)