Professor Sophie Ratcliffe

My personal website can be found at

I’m interested in ideas of emotion, the history of how we feel, and how books shape feelings, and this is what drove my first book On Sympathy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Since then my research has focussed on ideas of readership, materiality and the aesthetic encounter. I wrote about the idea of reading in the 'now' for Victorian Studies in the Autumn of 2016. A related piece about feeling, history and presence can be read here.

In 2017, I curated Unsilencing the Library an ongoing exhibition at Compton Verney Art Gallery and Museum, about why books mattered in the nineteenth century, and why they still do. Our team was delighted that the project won one of the 2017 Vice Chancellor's Awards for Public Engagement. You can visit the exhibition in its virtual form, or see the real thing at Compton Verney.

Embodiment, and the question of how one writes a life - particularly in relation to motherhood-  is another research interest. This, together with my my  work on reading and feeling led me to publish a work of creative non-fiction with William Collins in March 2019 called The Lost Properties of Love: An Exhibition of Myself. You can read a review of it here.

My current project brings together these interests in reading, presence, gender and embodiment in a book with a working title, The Child in the Library.

I also have a longstanding interest in what might be called the 'applied' Medical Humanities - in the ways in which literature and medicine interact today. For the last eight years, I have led a series of seminars for those who work in the health service, You can find out more about the seminars here . My additional research in the medical humanities considers a variety of intriguing collisions between medicine and literature, such as the phenomenon of the drugseller-bookstore, the use of reading images on medical trade cards, invalid literature, literary 'prescriptions', and hospital libraries. I was proud to judge the Wellcome Book Prize in 2018.

Additional publications include P. G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters, and essays on Hari Kunzru and Samuel Beckett. I regularly review fiction for the national press.

You will find me teaching and lecturing at undergraduate level on authors including Dickens, Trollope, Browning, James Joyce. Samuel Beckett, W. H. Auden. Elizabeth Bishop, Geoffrey Hill, Martin Amis and Zadie Smith. I have supervised doctorates in both nineteenth and twentieth century literature, and co-teach a Paper 6 undergraduate option on Writing Lives with my colleague Dr Marion Turner.