Professor Nicholas Halmi

  • Enlightenment and Romantic literature (esp. poetry) and philosophy
  • European intellectual history, 17th–20th centuries
  • Comparative literature (British, German, French, Italian)
  • Historicization and aesthetics
  • Classical reception
  • Enlightenment and Romantic visual culture
  • Literary history and theory (esp. genre theory and issues of periodization)
  • Anglo-Italian and Anglo-German literary and cultural relations

My research is concerned principally with British and Continental literature, philosophy, and visual arts of the 'long eighteenth century' (roughly, mid-17th to mid-19th century), particularly in their responses to the challenges and discontents of modernity and in their relation to the historical past.

Romantic symbol. My book The Genealogy of the Romantic Symbol (2007) analysed an historically signficant attempt to overcome, through means bequeathed by the Enlightenment itself, a profound dissatisfaction with the dualisms of Enlightenment epistemology, semiotics, aesthetics, and natural science. A primary purpose of the book was to explain what intellectual purposes the Romantic theorization of the symbol--which was very influential in post-Romantic criticism and has caused much contention in critical theory since the 1960s--served in the nineteenth century itself. The book's own genealogy is recounted in the article 'Telling Stories about Romantic Theory' (2012), and its central argument is summarized in my discussion with Robert Harrison in his radio programme Entitled Opinions (see the "Other Information" tab for a link). Various of the contributors to the collection Symbol and Intuition (2013), to which I wrote an afterword, engage with aspects of the Genealogy's argument, and the book has been praised by philosophers (e.g., Miguel de Beistegui) and historians (e.g., Warren Breckman) as well as by literary critics (e.g., Terry Eagleton).

Historicization and aesthetics. More recently I have been writing about historical self-consciousness and the aestheticization of the past in poetry, painting, and architecture of the long eighteenth century (e.g., in representations of imaginary ruins), as well as on the relation of the Romantics’ self-consciously new literary forms to traditional genres and genre theory (e.g., Byron's ironization of epic in Don Juan). I was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship for 2015–17 to work on a comparative study of the relationship of historical understanding to aesthetic theory and artistic form, History's Forms: Aesthetics and the Past in the Age of Historicization, 1650–1850. An anticipation of some of the book's arguments was published in Modern Language Quarterly in September 2013. Outgrowths of this project include chapters and lectures on the discontents of historicization more generally and on historical periodization.

Further projects include a book on Coleridge (contracted with Princeton University Press), a book on Byron, and commissioned chapters on allegory, Coleridge's philosophical thought, and 'transcendental revolutions' in Romanticism.

I have also done a good deal of scholarly editing, especially of Coleridge, and have served on the Modern Language Association's Committee on Scholarly Editions (in 2007–9 as co-chair). From 2010 to 2018 I was an advisory editor of Oxford University Press’s Oxford Scholarly Editions Online project, with particular responsibility for Romantic-period editions. My Norton Critical Edition of Wordsworth (2013), described in the TLS as 'likely to set the agenda for classroom study of Wordsworth for years to come' and 'an essential text for scholars', contains a generous selection of the poetry and critical prose, including a newly edited and annotated text of the 1805 Prelude and—for the first time—en face texts of The Ruined Cottage and book 1 of The Excursion.

I am an Associated Academic Staff member of the History of Art Department, am involved in the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation Group, and am a member of the editorial board of the series Close Reading: Schriften zur britischen Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaft, published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. I have twice served on the Advisory Board of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR), most recently as chair (in 2015 and 2016), and in the English Faculty have been a co-convenor of the Romanticism Research Seminar. I have also served formerly on the editorial boards of Romanticism on the Net (as reviews editor, 2004–8) and Modern Language Quarterly.

Universal Histories Research Seminar, Hilary Term 2020

This seminar series explored the emergence of different types of universal histories with their speculative particularities—linguistic, aesthetic political, religious—over the course of the Enlightenment period. The speakers, representing a range of nationalities, disciplinary formations, and research areas, include both early-career scholars and established academics with international reputations. The seminar was generously supported by the John Fell Fund, the English Faculty, the Oxford Centre for European History, The Queen's College, and University College. A selection of articles deriving from the seminar, along with additional articles, is to be published as a special issue of Intellectual History Review.



History's Forms: Aesthetics and the Past in the Age of Historicization, 1650–1850 (in progress, contracted with OUP)

The Genealogy of the Romantic Symbol (OUP, 2007; 2nd printing, 2011)

Editor, Wordsworth's Poetry and Prose (Norton Critical Edition, 2013; corrected 2nd printing, 2017; 3rd printing, July 2021)

Co-editor, Coleridge's Poetry and Prose (Norton Critical Edition, 2004; 6th printing, 2017)

Textual editor, Opus Maximum, vol. 15 of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Princeton UP, 2002)

'Transcendental Revolutions', in Patrick Vincent (ed.), The Cambridge History of European Romantic Literature (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2022) (14,000 words)

'Coleridge's Philosophies', in Tim Fulford (ed.), The New Cambridge Companion to Coleridge (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2022)

'Periodisation and the Epochal Event', in Sophie Lanier-Musitelli and Céline Sabiron (eds.), Romanticism and Time (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2021), pp. 234–41, 256–7 [essay and comment contributed to the section 'Romanticism and Periodisation: A Rountable', with contributions also from David Duff, Fiona Stafford, Martin Procházka, and Laurent Folliot; free PDF of the volume available here]

'Romantic Thinking', in Daniel Whistler and Panaiota Vassipoloulou (eds.), in Thought: A Philosophical History (Abingdon: Routledge, 2021), pp. 61–74 [on anti-foundationalism and self-reflexivity in Hölderlin, Novalis, and Friedrich Schlegel]

With Stephanie Dumke, 'The Reception of A. W. Schlegel in British Romanticism', Serapion: Zweijahresschrift für europäische Romantik, 1 (2020), 89–103

'Spinoza nel romanticismo inglese (Coleridge e Shelley)', in Carlo Altini (ed.), La fortuna di Spinoza in età moderna e contemporanea (Pisa: Edizioni della Scuole Normale Superiore di Pisa, 2020), vol. 2, pp. 55–69

'The Shelley Memorial, University College, Oxford', Rêve (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition), published 27 March 2020

'European Romanticism: Ambivalent Responses to the Sense of a New Epoch', in Warren Breckman and Peter Gordon (eds.), The Cambridge History of Modern European Thought (CUP, 2019), vol. 1, pp. 40–64

‘The Greco-Roman Revival’, in David Duff (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of British Romanticism (OUP, 2018), pp. 661–74

With Stephanie Dumke, 'An Unpublished Carlyle Letter in Leipzig', Notes and Queries, 66 (2018), 372–5

‘Byron and Weltliteratur’, in Norbert Lennartz (ed.), Byron and Marginality (Edinburgh University Press, 2018), pp. 19–29 [on Byron and Goethe]

‘The Literature of Italy in Byron’s Poems of 1817–20’, in Alan Rawes and Diego Saglia (eds.), Byron and Italy (Manchester University Press, 2017), pp. 23–43

'Past and Future, Discontent and Unease', in Christoph Bode (ed.), Romanticism and the Forms of Discontent (Trier: WVT, December 2017), pp. 87–100

'Two Types of Wordsworthian Ambiguity', in Sebastian Domsch, Christoph Reinfandt, and Katharina Rennhak (eds.), Romantic Ambiguities: Abodes of the Modern (Trier: WVT, 2017), pp. 37–52

‘The Anti-Historicist Historicism of German Romantic Architecture’, European Romantic Review, 26 (2015), 789–807

‘The Theorization of Style’, in Stefanie Fricke, Felicitas Meinert, and Katharina Pink (eds.), Romanticism and Knowledge (Trier: WVT, 2015), pp. 73–86

‘Symbolism, Imagism, and Hermeneutic Anxiety’, Connotations: A Journal of Critical Debate, 23.1 (2013/14), 127–39 (abridged version: ‘The Poundian Image and the Romantic Symbol’, La Questione Romantica, n.s. 5 (2013 [published December 2015]), 153–8)

‘Romanticism, the Temporalization of History, and the Historicization of Form’, Modern Language Quarterly, 74 (2013), 363–89

Afterword to James Vigus and Helmut Hühn (eds.), Symbol and Intuition: Comparative Studies in Kantian and Romantic-Period Aesthetics (London: Legenda, 2013), pp. 191–3

‘Coleridge’s Ecumenical Spinoza’, in Beth Lord (ed.), Spinoza beyond Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), pp. 188–207 (abridged reprint: Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, 61 (April 2012 [published November 2013])

‘Telling Stories about Romantic Theory’, European Romantic Review, 23 (2012), 305–11

‘Ruins without a Past’, Essays in Romanticism, 18 (2011), 7–27 [on artificial and imaginary ruins]

‘Byron between Ariosto and Tasso’, in Frederick Burwick and Paul Douglass (eds.), Dante and Italy in British Romanticism (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011), pp. 39–53

‘The Very Model of a Modern Epic Poem’, European Romantic Review, 21 (2010), 589–600 (reprinted in: Thomas Pfau and Robert Mitchell (eds.), Romanticism and Modernity (Routledge, 2012), chap. 10) [on Byron's Don Juan]

‘Coleridge on Allegory and Symbol’, in Frederick Burwick (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Coleridge (OUP, 2009), pp. 345–58

Graduate Supervision:

I am happy to consider requests to supervise MSt dissertations and DPhil theses on subjects broadly related to the areas of my research.

Broadcasts and blog posts:

Hans Blumenberg Seminar on Zoom, Mondays in Michaelmas Term 2020 at 5 pm UK time: discussion with Rüdiger Zill of his recently published biography of Blumenberg, 5 October; discussion with Audrey Borowski, Hannes Bajohr, Florian Fuchs, and Joe Kroll of the recently published History, Metaphors, Fables: A Hans Blumenberg Reader, 16 November

'"A dream, which was not all a dream": dark reflections from June 1816', OUP Blog, published 16 June 2016

'Byron: Judging and Judged', Oxford Scholary Editions Online, published 25 August 2015

Interview, 'From Radical Engraver to Canonical Poet: How Did William Blake's Reputation Change?', Oxford Arts Blog, University of Oxford, published 4 December 2014

'Incorporating Oxford Scholarly Editions Online into Undergraduate Teaching', Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, published 14 October 2013

'Snapshots in Time: Critical Editions and Changes in Editorial Practice', Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, published 31 July 2012

Audio slideshow on William Blake's Illustrations of the Book of Job, BBC News, published 19 May 2011

Radio interview about the Romantic symbol, KZSU FM, Stanford University, 8 Feb. 2011

Other Information:

Before coming to Oxford I had a tenured appointment in the departments of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Washington, Seattle. In winter 2011 I was a Visiting Professor of English at Stanford University, in October 2018 a Visiting Scholar at the Università di Bologna, and from December 2019 to January 2020 a Visiting Scholar at the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung in Berlin.

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