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Research

I have four broad areas of research:

Victorian Material Culture and Collecting

I am writing a book titled Collecting, Masculinity and the Victorian Imagination, which focuses on the literary depiction of collectors and the significance of collecting as theme and method in late-Victorian writing. My book explores how the Victorian collector emerges as a figure through whom cultural value was articulated and investigated, as the practices of collecting (selecting, hoarding, classifying) became narratives through which writers explore the relationship between the material object, masculine body and the moral self. Writers I discuss include Oscar Wilde, Henry James, George Gissing, M.R. James, Richard Marsh and Rider Haggard. I have published a number of essays and articles as part of this project (see publications).

I am co-editing (with Tatiana Kontou) a six-volume series on Victorian material culture for Routledge, This will be a collection of source books for students and researchers organised thematically around key aspects of Victorian production and it includes volumes on   ‘Science and medicine’, ‘Invention and Technology’, ‘Victorian Arts’, ‘Raw Materials’ and ‘Manufacturing’

In 2008, I edited an edition of 19:Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century on ‘Victorian Fiction and the Material Imagination’ which you can see here: http://www.19.bbk.ac.uk/69/volume/0/issue/6/

Curating the Victorians

I am interested in how the Victorians are presented across a wide range of contemporary cultural production including museum and gallery exhibitions, television series and plays. In 2011 I co-curated (with Nicola Bown and Alison Smith) an exhibition on ‘Victorian Sentimentality’ at Tate Britain and in 2015 I was the exhibition researcher on the ‘Fallen Woman’ exhibition at the Founding Museum (curated by Lynda Nead).

I am currently Assistant Editor for “Victorians Live”, the section of the journal Victorian Literature and Culture focusing on contemporary presentations of the Victorians.

I supervise MA students who take up internships at some of our partner institutions, which include the Guildhall Art Gallery and the Salvation Army.

Victorian Feeling

In 2015 I organised a major international conference on ‘The Arts and Feeling in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture’, held at Birkbeck.  In 2016 I edited an edition of 19:Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century on this topic http://www.19.bbk.ac.uk/91/volume/2016/issue/23/ . Linked to my work on curating, I am interested in questions around the representation and display of Victorian emotion. I am also interested in the relationship between psychology and aesthetics in the nineteenth century, which I explored in an article on the museum as a site of affect in George Eliot’s Middlemarch. You can read that here: http://www.19.bbk.ac.uk/articles/10.16995/ntn.596/

Fiction, Illustration and the Classical past

The fourth strand of my research falls in the area of classical reception studies and examines the substantial contribution of illustrated antique novels (that is novels either set in the classical past or that take the classical past as their key theme) to the visual and literary culture of Victorian Britain. Although little read today, novels such as Ben Hur (1880) and Quo Vadis (1893) were among the best-selling novels of the nineteenth century. My project explores the circulation of these novels within the literary and visual economies in Europe and America and considers how their cultural significance was expressed through the relationship between word and image. I have published an essay on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun on this theme and I am co-editing (with Katharina Boehm) a forthcoming special edition of Word and Image linked to this project titled ‘Mediating the Materiality of the Past’, 1720-1930’ .