I completed my BA at the University of Bristol and went on to study for an MPhil in European Romanticism at Glasgow and Bologna. I did my PhD at Cambridge and after finishing the thesis I took up lectureships at Sheffield (2001) and York (2005). I joined Keble in 2011.

My first book, The Art of Eloquence: Byron, Dickens, Tennyson, Joyce, looked at some relations between political oratory and literary culture. Comedy: A Very Short Introduction explored comedy as a literary genre and as a range of non-literary impulses and events (pantomime, circus, stand-up acts, caricatures, and other funny business). Wordsworth’s Fun was published by the University of Chicago Press last year (reviews of that book are available here).

Much of my recent work focuses on poetry: essays include ‘Poetry by Numbers‘, ‘Unknowing Lyric‘, ‘In Search of Distraction‘, and ‘Some Birds‘. Some of this material is preparatory thinking for a book I’m writing for Harvard University Press, entitled How I Wonder. I’m also finishing Knowing Edward Lear for Oxford University Press, which builds on a volume I co-edited, Edward Lear and The Play of Poetry. The research has involved collaborations with the BBC, Harvard University, the Natural History Museum, the Ashmolean, and the IKON Gallery. More information — along with podcasts, online exhibitions, talks, and other materials — can be found here.

I convene the Poets at Keble series, a seminar on The Poet’s Essay with Adam Phillips, and The Salutation and Cat Reading Group. I have also written for The London Review of Books, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, Raritan, Poetry, and other papers and journals (essays on Edward Thomas, Treasure Island and its adaptations, cockneys and nineteenth-century London, William Hazlitt, Robert Frost, Lewis Carroll, Elizabeth Bishop, Stevie Smith, Thomas De Quincey,  John Ashbery, Edward Lear, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Wordsworth, Douglas Crase, A. R. Ammons, Rachael Allen, Kay Ryan, and others). My essays for the LRB are available here; podcasts/interviews based on my work for Poetry are available here and here.


Selected Publications

Books / Edited Collections / Editions

Wordsworth’s Fun (Chicago University Press, 2019), pp. 303

Edward Lear and The Play of Poetry, co-ed. with James Williams (Oxford UP, 2016), pp. 381

The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Poetry, ed. (OUP, 2013; pbk 2016), pp. 912

Lessons In Byron (Pan Macmillan, 2013), pp. 120

Comedy: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2012), pp. 150

The Art of Eloquence: Byron, Dickens, Tennyson, Joyce (Oxford UP, 2007; paperback 2010), pp. 302

Some Versions of Empson, ed. (Oxford UP, 2007), pp. 376

Lives of Victorian Literary Figures: Tennyson, ed. (Pickering & Chatto, 2003), pp. 504


Articles in Books

‘Laughable Poetry’, in Affect and Literature, ed. Alex Houen (Cambridge University Press, 2020), 222-48.

‘Charles Lamb . . . Seriously’, in Thinking Through Style: Non-Fiction Prose of the Long Nineteenth Century, ed. Michael Hurley and Marcus Waithe (Oxford UP, 2018), 35-54

‘Introduction’ [co-written with James Williams], and ‘Falling for Edward Lear’, in Edward Lear and The Play of Poetry, co-ed. with James Williams (Oxford UP, 2016), 1-15 & 134-61

‘At Work With Victorian Poetry’, in The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Poetry (Oxford UP, 2013), 1-16

‘Dickens by the Clock’, in Dickens’s Style, ed. Daniel Tyler (Cambridge UP, 2013; paperback 2015), 46-72

‘Byron’s Feet’, in Meter Matters: Verse Cultures of The Long Nineteenth Century, ed. Jason Hall (Ohio UP, 2011), 78-104

‘Tennyson’s Humour’, in Tennyson Among the Poets: Bicentenary Essays, ed. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst and Seamus Perry (Oxford UP, 2009), 231-58

‘Empson in the Round’, in Some Versions of Empson (Oxford UP, 2007), 1-20

‘Fighting Talk: Victorian War Poetry’, in The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War Poetry, ed. by Tim Kendall (Oxford UP, 2007), 7-33


Articles in Journals, Essays, Reviews, etc.

‘Some Birds’, Poetry (March 2020), 597-610

‘Poetry by Numbers’, Raritan, 37.2 (Fall 2017), 37-64

‘In Search of Distraction’, Poetry (November 2017), 171-94

‘Unknowing Lyric’, Poetry (March 2017), 575-89

‘The Funny Thing About Trees’, Raritan (Winter 2014), 86-116

‘Eliot Among the Comedians’, Literary Imagination, 16.2 (July 2014), 135-56

Edward Lear’s Lines of Flight’ [2012 British Academy Chatterton Lecture on poetry], Journal of The British Academy, 1 (2013), 31-69

‘Wordsworth’s Folly’, The Wordsworth Circle, 43.3 (Summer 2012), 146-51

‘Wordsworth at Play’, Essays in Criticism, 61.1 (January 2011), 54-78

‘Warring Claims: Victorian Poetry and Conflict’, Les Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens, 66 (October 2007), 415-49

‘Joyce’s Love Letters’, in James Joyce Quarterly, 44.2 (2007), 354-57

‘William Empson’, 4000-word entry in The Literary Encyclopedia (2004)

‘Tennyson’s “Roses on the Terrace”: A New Manuscript’, Tennyson Research Bulletin, 8.2 (2003), 118-20

‘Volumes of Noise’, Victorian Literature and Culture, 31.2 (Autumn 2003), 577-91

‘Tennyson, Ireland, and “The Powers of Speech”’, Victorian Poetry, 39 (Fall 2001), 345-64

‘Dickens in Public’, Essays in Criticism, 51 (July 2001), 330-52

‘Temporizing Dickens’, Review of English Studies, 52 (May 2001), 171-91

‘Ruskin, Bright, and the Politics of Eloquence’, Nineteenth-Century Prose, 27.2 (Fall 2000), 177-90

‘Tennyson’s Civil Tongue’, Tennyson Research Bulletin, 7.3 (November 1999), 113-25


Selected review-articles / essays include:

Giddy with Thinking‘ [on Kay Ryan], The New York Review of Books (Sept 2020)

Faintly Risible, Obscurely Resonant‘ [on Wordsworth], Harper’s (July 2020)

On Rachael Allen‘, LRB (5 March 2020)

On Douglas Crase‘, LRB (25 November 2019)

Gravity’s Smoothest Dream‘ [on A. R. Ammons], LRB (7 March 2019), 31-33

Foiled by Pleasure‘ [on Elizabeth Barrett Browning], LRB (30 August 2018), 32-34

Are you a tome?‘ [on Edward Lear], LRB (14 December 2017), 27-30

‘It Wants to Go to Bed with Us’ [on John Ashbery], Harper’s (June 2017), 78-84

Supping on Horrors‘ [on Thomas De Quincey], Harper’s (October 2016), 85-93

‘What most I love I bite’ [on Stevie Smith] LRB (28 July 2016), 19-21

‘The lighthouse stares back’ [on Elizabeth Bishop] LRB (7 January 2016), 9-10

I can bite anything I want’ [on Lewis Carroll] LRB (16 July 2015), 17-20

‘Damn the Respectable’ [on Edward Thomas] Literary Review (May 2015)

‘It is still mañana’, [on Robert Frost] LRB (19 February 2015), 21-24

‘Metropolitan Miscreants’ [on nineteenth-century London] LRB 4 July 2013), 32-33

‘Kids Gone Rotten’ [on Treasure Island] LRB (25 October 2012), 26-28

Deleecious’ [on William Hazlitt] LRB (6 November 2008), 26-28