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English Faculty research

The English faculty is very active in producing research, and all its members have produced books and book chapters for well-known and well-regarded publishers, including Blackwell, Bloomsbury, Cambridge University Press, Clarendon, Continuum, Edinburgh University Press, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Harvill Secker, Hamish Hamilton, Longman, Oxford University Press, Penguin, Pickering and Chatto, and Yale University Press. They also all contribute refereed articles to excellent peer reviewed journals in their field, including Comparative Critical Studies, Comparative Literature, Essays in Criticism, Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry, Journal of Modern Literature, Literary Imagination, Modern Language Review, and Word & Image: A Journal of Verbal/Visual Enquiry. Internally, all members of the faculty contribute to the Ottoline Club and Ottoline Online. Members of the faculty also write for the literary pages of a wide range of leading newspapers, magazines and literary supplements, including the The Independent, Institute of Arts and Ideas, Literary Review, London Review of Books, Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Times, Prospect, Times Literary Supplement, and The Spectator, and have presented their research for broadcast media outlets such as NPR (US), BBC London, BBC Ireland and BBC Radio 4.

The Faculty has particular research strengths in a wide variety of areas, some of which are listed below.

Specialties and teaching interests

Shakespeare and Early Modern Literature

Professor Christopher Ricks is the Warren Professor of the Humanities and Co-Director of the Editorial Institute at Boston University, and a visiting professor at NCH. One of the pre-eminent literary critics and editors of our time, he was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford from 2004 to 2009, having previously taught at Cambridge and Bristol. His research interests span the literature of the past five centuries, with a strong focus on poetry. He is the editor of The Oxford Book of English Verse (Oxford, 1999), and the author of several important studies of the literature of the Early Modern period, including Milton’s Grand Style (Clarendon, 1963), English Poetry and Prose 1540–1674 (Penguin, 1973) and English Drama to 1710 (Penguin, 1993). His lectures on Shakespeare and Early Modern literature at NCH have included ‘King Lear and the Double Bind’; ‘Measure for Measure: ‘His act did not o’ertake his bad intent’’; and ‘Unfortunate Lovers: Donne and Marvell’.

Professor Trevor Nunn is one of the foremost figures in post-war British theatre, and has a particular specialism in directing Shakespeare. After studying English under F. R. Leavis at Downing College, Cambridge, he became Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) at the age of 28 in 1968. Between 1997 and 2003, he was Artistic Director of the Royal National Theatre, and began as Artistic Director of the Haymarket Theatre Royal in 2011. He was knighted in the 2002 Queen’s Birthday Honours. Several of his Shakespeare productions exist as films, notably Twelfth Night (1996) and King Lear (2008). As a visiting professor at NCH, his talks draw on his experience of achieving his lifelong ambition to direct every one of Shakespeare’s plays, and offer directorial insights into questions of authorship and collaboration.

Prior to becoming an award-winning novelist, columnist, broadcaster, and visiting professor at NCH, Professor Howard Jacobson taught literature at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and the University of Sydney. He is the co-author with Wilbur Sanders of Shakespeare’s Magnanimity: four tragic heroes, their friends, and families (Oxford, 1978), an unconventional study of Hamlet, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus. More recently, he is the author of Shylock is My Name (Vintage, 2016), a contemporary re-imagining of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. In addition to his talks on creative writing at NCH, he has given lectures on such topics as ‘Hamlet the Comedian’, drawing on both his scholarly and creative insights into Shakespeare’s plays.

Dr Daniel Swift’s research focuses on late sixteenth-century drama, particularly the plays of Shakespeare. He is the author of Shakespeare’s Common Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Age (Oxford University Press, 2012) and a member of the Shakespeare Association of America. He is currently researching A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Theatre, which was a very early playing house in London’s Shoreditch; he has 3 also written about the rewriting of Shakespeare’s plays as modern novels, and the contemporary political use of quotations from Shakespeare.

Dr Peter Maber is interested in critical and creative responses to Shakespeare in the twentieth century, and has recently contributed entries on W. H. Auden, Samuel Beckett, T. S. Eliot, Wole Soyinka, and W. B. Yeats, to the Stanford Global Shakespeare Encyclopedia, edited by Patricia Parker. Dr Maber has also published a study of Sir Thomas Browne’s Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, or, a Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk (1658), for Treasures of Durham University Library.

Augustan, Romantic and Victorian Literature

Dr Charlotte Grant’s research focuses on eighteenth-century literature and material culture, the mid-century culture of sensibility, and on women writers. She is the co-editor of Women, Writing and the Public Sphere 1700-1830 (Cambridge University Press, 2001) and editor of Flora, vol 4 of Literature and Science, 1660-1830 (Pickering and Chatto, 2003). She has published on women poets and on the representation of interiors and interiority in the novel.

Dr Catherine Brown has broad interests across Victorian prose and drama, and a specialism in George Eliot. Her book The Art of Comparison: How Novels and Critics Compare (Legenda, 2011) considers Eliot’s influence on Lev Tolstoy through a close comparison of Daniel Deronda and Anna Karenina. She co-edited The Reception of George Eliot in Europe with Elinor Shaffer in 2016 (Bloomsbury), which traces the reception of Eliot in fifteen European countries from the 1860s to the present. Other articles consider adaptations of The Mill on the Floss, and Eliot’s relations to Russia, anti-Semitism, and Zionism. She has also published on the personal and literary relations between Henry James and Ivan Turgenev. Her ongoing interest in the Anglo-Russian literary relations of the nineteenth century is reflected in her current work (first presented at a conference in Russia, and a colloquium in Cambridge, in 2018) on Lev Tolstoy’s critique of King Lear in the context of the Russian reception of Shakespeare.

Professor Christopher Ricks is the editor of The New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse (Oxford, 1987), The Poems of Tennyson (Longman, 1987), and the 31- volume Tennyson Archive (with Aidan Day, from 1987). He has a wide variety of interests in the literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and is a champion of Victorian literature especially. He has also edited The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (with Graham Petrie, 1967), and The Brownings: Letters and Poetry (1970), and is the author of Keats and Embarrassment (Clarendon, 1974). Professor Ricks’ lectures at NCH have covered numerous topics in Augustan, Victorian and Romantic literature, such as ‘Samuel Johnson’s London’; ‘‘The Memory of Civil Wars’ (Dryden)’; ‘The Dramatic Monologue: Browning and Beyond’; and ‘John Keats: A spelling-book lesson’.

Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Literature

Professor Christopher Ricks is the co-editor (with Jim McCue) of T.S. Eliot, The Poems (Faber & Faber, 2013), and the author of many important critical studies of the literature of the twenieth and twenty-first centuries, including T. S. Eliot and Prejudice (Faber & Faber, 1988), Beckett’s Dying Words (Clarendon, 1993), Dylan’s Visions of Sin (Canongate, 2003), and True Friendship: Geoffrey Hill, Anthony Hecht and Robert Lowell Under the Sign of Eliot and Pound (Yale, 2010). As a visiting professor at NCH, his numerous lectures on twentieth century literature have covered such topics as ‘Beckett’s Ways with Shakespeare’s Words’; ‘‘The medium of drama is not words’: Ezra Pound’; ‘‘listen, there is a hell / of a planet next door, lets go’ (e.e.cummings)’; and ‘Bob Dylan and American English’.

Dr Catherine Brown is Vice President of the D.H. Lawrence Society and was Executive Director of the 14th International D.H. Lawrence Conference held at NCH in 2017. She is on the editorial board of the peer-reviewed Journal of the DH Lawrence Society, and is founder of the London Lawrence Reading Group. Her book, The Art of Comparison: How Novels and Critics Compare (Legenda, 2011), considers Lawrence’s response to Lev Tolstoy and the implied ethics of Women in Love and Anna Karenina. She is currently co-editing The Edinburgh Companion to D.H. Lawrence and the Arts (forthcoming 2020), and has written articles or book chapters, or given papers, on Lawrence and the Alps, Dostoevsky, Christianity, Darwin, the First World War, Egyptology, and tragedy. Her current work is on Lawrence and veganism. She engages with the media on Lawrence (for example for BBC 1 and 2, Radio 4). Other work on modernism includes an article for Journal of Modern Literature on English modernist uses of the word ‘soul’, as inflected by the concept of ‘the Russian Soul’. She also lectures in Russia on contemporary British literature, and writes on modern novels for a Russian English literature journal. Dr Brown reviews contemporary fiction for journals including Standpoint and Prospect, and peer reviews research on modern literature for Routledge and Palgrave Macmillan, and journals including Studies in the Novel and Literature Compass, amongst others. Her longer term projects include a comparison of Derek Walcott and V.S. Naipaul, and a study of literary representations of torture.

Dr Peter Maber works on North American poetry (see North American Literature); the relationship between British painters and poets (see Comparative Literature and Visual Culture); and critical and creative responses to Shakespeare in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He has co-edited a volume of essays on Frances Cornford, the Cambridge poet and granddaughter 5 of Charles Darwin, and is the author of entries on W. H. Auden, Samuel Beckett, T. S. Eliot, Wole Soyinka, and W. B. Yeats, in the Stanford Global Shakespeare Encyclopedia.

Dr Daniel Swift’s most recent book is The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound (Harvill Secker, 2017), a study of the dozen years Pound spent as a patient at St Elizabeth’s hospital for the insane in Washington, DC, where he was visited by several generations of poets and artists. Amongst those who visited Pound in the asylum was a young John Berryman, who later wrote “The Dream Songs”—one of the most celebrated 20 th century American poetic sequences—and whose works Dr Swift has edited. Dr Swift’s first book, Bomber County (Hamish Hamilton, 2010), also describes a generation of poets: those English and American writers who were inspired by the troubling aerial bombing campaigns of the Second World War.

North American Literature

Dr Peter Maber specialises in North American literature, having completed his PhD on the poetry of John Berryman under Professor Anne Barton at Trinity College, Cambridge. He has published articles on a broad range of topics in this field, including the role of blackface minstrelsy in Berryman’s poetry; Berryman’s relation to Shakespearean biography; and Allen Ginsberg relation to visual art. One of his current main research projects is a study of the middle generation of twentieth-century American poets, including Delmore Schwartz, Robert Lowell, Berryman and Sylvia Plath.

Dr Daniel Swift has written on many American poets, including Ezra Pound, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, and John Olson. His work on these poets has tended to be both biographical and critical, as it pays attention to their lives and their times as well as their poems, and argues that we might see the most powerful poetry as both reflective and instructive: it teaches us both how to understand our experiences and how to live our lives.

Comparative Literature and Visual Culture

Dr Catherine Brown, who is of Anglo-German parentage, has a strong interest in inter-national and inter-lingual comparison. Her The Reception of George Eliot in Europe (Bloomsbury, 2016) implicitly compares fifteen European countries through their responses to George Eliot from the 1860s to the present. Her The Art of Comparison: How Novels and Critics Compare (Legenda, 2011) not only compares George Eliot’s influence on Lev Tolstoy with Tolstoy’s influence on D.H. Lawrence, but reflects on the nature of comparison itself by focusing on novels which are internally comparative (Daniel Deronda, Anna Karenina and Women in Love). All three novels are also compared in their relation to Goethe’s concept of Weltliteratur. Other comparative projects include articles on the literary relationship of Henry James and Ivan Turgenev, the influence of the concept of ‘the Russian Soul’ on Anglophone modernism, and work in progress on a comparison of the St Lucian poet Derek Walcott and the Trinidadian writer V.S. Naipaul. She is on the editorial board of a Russian academic journal concerning modern Anglophone literature, regularly reviews books of or concerning Russian literature for Literary Review, and lectures in Russia and Belorussia. Her comparative interests led her to make a dissertation on comparative literature the culmination of the English BA major and minor at NCH.

Dr Charlotte Grant works on links between literature and visual culture and has a background in art history and design history. She edited Imagined Interiors: Representing the Domestic Interior Since the Renaissance (London: V&A Publications, 2006), with Jeremy Aynsley, and has written on William Hogarth, the Society of Arts and women artists in the eighteenth century, and on mid twentieth century British art. She is currently working on a collection of essays relating to the third year English course Cultures of London, which engages with questions of identity and location in relation to London, which will bring together writing on literature, material and visual culture.

Dr Peter Maber writes art criticism for the Times Literary Supplement, and has a broad interest in the intersection of literary and visual culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He is particularly interested in the St. Ives school of British painters, on which he has written widely, having published a monograph on the Leach potter William Marshall (1923-2007), and articles on the poet W.S. Graham’s relation to the St. Ives school, and on the later writings of the postwar abstract artist Roger Hilton (1911-75), in Word & Image: A Journal of Verbal/ Visual Enquiry. Other articles include ‘Indian Ink: Francesco Clemente, Allen Ginsberg and the Kalakshetra Press’, in Spaces of the Book, ed. Isabelle Choi and Jean Khalfa (Peter Lang, 2015). He is currently working on an interdisciplinary study of the relationship between poets and painters from the early twentieth century to the present.

Creative Writing

Howard Jacobson is an award-winning novelist, essayist, columnist and broadcaster, and a visiting professor at NCH. His novels include The Mighty Walzer (Cape, 1999), Kalooki Nights (Cape, 2006), The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury, 2010)—for which he won the Man Booker Prize—J (Bloomsbury, 2014), and most recently, Live a Little (Cape, 2019). For nineteen years he wrote a weekly newspaper column for The Independent. He has also written extensively for television, including episodes of Christianity: A History and The Bible: A History for Channel 4, and Brilliant Creatures, a series on four Australian iconoclasts, for the BBC. His lectures and talks at NCH on Creative Writing cover topics such as prose style, character development and the art of comedy.