I trained at Oxford in the literature and culture of the Romantic period, studying with Jonathan Wordsworth, Marilyn Butler, and Paul Hamilton. In 1985, I took up a Frank Knox Fellowship to Harvard University and spent four years there, before moving to Northwestern University, Chicago. Ten years later, I came back to Oxford, before joining the Open University in 1999.
My research interests are based within the Romantic period but extend backwards into the eighteenth century and forwards into the nineteenth. I specialise nowadays in the cultural afterlives of authors and texts, with special reference to literary tourism. forms of literary commemoration, and related practices of adaptation.
In addition to an edition of Walter Scott's The Antiquary, two edited collections of essays, and many essays and articles, I have published four books. My first, Revolution and the Form of the British Novel 1790-1820 (OUP, 1994), dealt with the politics of novelistic form in the period. England's Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy (OUP, 2002), my second book, was co-authored with Professor Michael Dobson and was a study of the afterlives of Elizabeth I in history, biography, fiction, poetry, drama, opera, film,and other media. My third monograph, The Literary Tourist: Readers and Places in Romantic and Victorian Britain (Palgrave, 2006) investigated the history of the phenomenon of literary tourism. The book I have just published, The Author’s Effects: On the Writer's House Museum (OUP, 2020), explores the cult of the author through investigating the emergence of the writer’s house museum as idea and actuality. I look at a series of celebrated objects associated with writers to trace the cultural meanings they have accumulated over time. Other recent related essays have dealt with the history of the 'Shakespeare garden', the emergence of 'Juliet's tomb' as a tourist destination, and the development of tourism associated with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Jane Austen. If you would like to learn more about The Literary Tourist and The Author's Effects, please visit my research blog (http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/literarytourist/). Most recently, I have been increasingly working on the digital futures of writer's house museums; for one online exhibition devised recently for the Birthplace Trust, see 'Shakespeare and Literary Pilgrimage' at Trust http://collections.shakespeare.org.uk/
Looking ahead, the diary for 2020 includes continuing to act as Association Co-ordinator for ERA (European Romanticisms in Association), a pan-European association of scholarly institutions and heritage institutions devoted to the arts and culture of the Romantic period which was founded and launched at a meeting in Rome in late 2016. ERA has been running a number of events distinguished by collaboration with local museums, galleries and archives. Its first event was held at Chawton House Library and focussed on Jane Austen and Germaine de Stael to mark the joint anniversary of their deaths; the second focussed on Frankenstein and was held at Bologna in September 2018.
The members of ERA are also heavily involved in the AHRC-funded network (2018-2020) on which I am PI, Dreaming Romantic Europe (DREAM) (Co-I Professor Catriona Seth, All Souls, Oxford). The project's first workshop, 'Consuming Romanticism', was held at the Maison de Chateaubriand, just outside Paris, in November 2018. The second workshop, 'Romantic Authorship', met in Ravenna in November 2019 in association with the new Museo Byon. Its third core workshop, 'Romantic Media', will be meeting in June 2020 at Grasmere, in association with the redevelopment of Dove Cottage. In addition, we have been developing and showcasing the project in panels and workshops at a number of conferences, 'Romantic Interactions' (Kracow, 2019), BARS (Nottingham 2019), SHARP (Amherst 2019),The Society for the Study of the Novel (Oxford, 2020), 'British Romanticism and Europe' (Ascona, 2020). We have also run a freestanding workshop (hosted by All Souls Oxford) on the theme of 'Romantic Collections'; and a twinned workshop and public event in collaboration with the Cowper and Newton Museum, Olney, is coming up in March and May 2020. Work continues on the core project initiated under ERA and funded by DREAM, the online exhibition REVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition) of iconic objects exemplifying pan-European aspects of Romanticism. We are projected to have some 150 objects drawn from right across Europe and beyond on display by July 2020. For more on ERA, DREAM and REVE itself go to http://www.euromanticism.org.
Recent speaking engagements have included the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, University of Gottingen, and University of Oslo.
Over my career at the OU I have developed undergraduate teaching material for the Open University (print, video, audio, digital, and automated) on a wide variety of subjects: the literature and culture of the late eighteenth century and romantic period, nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction, children’s literature, and travel-writing; my new teaching material for A233 on the literary fairy tale from Giambattista Basile via Charles Perrault, Madame d'Aulnoy and Hans Christian Andersen, through to Angela Carter has just launched. I’ve authored other material for undergraduate study on Shakespeare and tourism, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, Byron, Thomas de Quincey, Gustave Flaubert, Virginia Woolf, Louisa M. Alcott, J.M. Barrie and Daphne du Maurier. You can see some of my work on the Royal Pavilion at Brighton on OpenLearn.
I have chaired a number of teams responsible for the development and management of courses in production and presentation including A103 (An introduction to the humanities), A207 (From Enlightenment to Romanticism c.1780-1830), A230 (Reading and studying literature), and A300 (Twentieth-century literature). I presently have a strong interest in new modes of online teaching and learning, inventing short-form learning materials such as 1-minute cartoon introductions to literary theory Outside the book - OpenLearn - Open University, apps such as the Poetry Prescription Poetry Prescription - OpenLearn - Open University, and material supporting the BBC4 series The Secret Life of Books (on which I was academic consultant and an interviewee) on OpenLearn The Secret Life of Books: Series Two - OpenLearn - Open University
At postgraduate level, I have supervised projects on topics ranging from Samuel Richardson, through William Blake, late eighteenth-century theatre, eighteenth-century fiction and the American wars, Charlotte Smith, mental illness and the Victorian novel, and modern children’s literature. I welcome approaches from students interested in the late eighteenth century and romantic period generally, historical fiction, travel-writing, place-writing, literary biography and afterlives, and forms of literary commemoration.
In addition to regularly speaking by invitation at academic conferences and symposia, I frequently give public lectures: at the Stratford Shakespeare Club, Dr Johnson’s House, the Edinburgh Scott Club, the Humanities Festival at the University of Lund in Sweden; the Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschäft in Vienna; the Humanities Festival at the University of Linköping, Sweden; Chawton House Library; the Johnson Society of London; the Oxford Italian Association; the York Festival of Ideas; The Burns Birthplace; the Sorbonne; The British Council in Paris; and the Being Human Festival 2017. Media appearances have included slots on Woman’s Hour, a Time Team special on Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, an ‘audio postcard’ from Poet’s Corner in conversation with Andrew Motion ahead of the Royal Wedding for Radio 4’s The Sunday Programme, a programme on Oxford’s literary sites for Radio 4’s Night Waves; and BBC 4’s series The Secret Life of Books. An audio-visual installation based on my research was first shown at the York Festival of Ideas 2016 and restaged for at MKLitFest 2018. I have made a number of appearances at literary festivals, most recently at MKLitFest 2019. In 2012 I advised the British Library on its exhibition 'Writing Britain' and since then have acted as consultant to various tourist boards and museums on exhibition strategies, including advising the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust on the redevelopment of New Place for the anniversary of 2016. In 2019 I founded the first and second iterations of 'The Memoir Club' which facilitates and investigates the therapeutic benefts of memoir-writing for the older writer; to my delight it has been a runaway success, and I am looking forward to setting up more clubs.
The main excitement of this year will be acting as academic consultant to the BBC1 series 'Write Around the World' featuring Richard E.Grant in my capacity as specialist in literary tourism. I have a stack of 16 books sitting by my bed to read in preparation...
I have acted as advisor and collaborator on a number of large funded projects to do with tourism and commemoration including: ‘Burns; The Object of Memory’ based in Edinburgh and Dundee; ‘Locating Imagination’, based at Rotterdam, ‘Shakespeare: Cultures of Commemoration’ based in Murcia, Spain, and ‘Writing Britain’s Ruins’ based in Stirling. I have acted as consultant on the redisplay of Shakespeare’s New Place for 2016 and on the upcoming redecelopment of Anne Hathaway's Cottage, and I am presently working with TRAUM on the futures of writer’s house museums in Norway. Nowadays, I am also Trustee of the Cowper and Newton Museum, Olney, and sitting on the advisory board of MKLitFest
My present large-scale collaboration is on the AHRC-funded Dreaming Romantic Europe (Co-I Prof Catriona Seth, All Souls, Oxford) which brings together scholarly associations and heritage organizations from across Europe to collaborate in the making of REVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition), a searchable virtual museum and developed pedagogical resource. See: http://www.euromanticism.org