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C17th and C18th Century Literature and Culture

C17th and C18th Century Literature and Culture

Members of the C17th and C18th research grouping explore the literature and culture of the long eighteenth century in a variety of ways.

Shared interests include poetry and aesthetics, the novel, theatre history and intellectual history. We have also produced editions of writers as diverse as Henry BurnellLaurence Sterne and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. We are all authors of world leading publications and have established links with the media and cultural institutions such as Alexander Pope’s Grotto, the Royal Shakespeare CompanyShakespeare's Globe and the Pegasus Theatre, Oxford. 

A striking feature of our research is that we have interests in more than one field or period. Vicky Greenaway works on poetics and aesthetics in the long nineteenth century; Deana Rankin works across Early Modern and Contemporary theatre; John Regan has expertise in eighteenth-century literature and Digital Humanities; Adam Roberts has written on the Classics and ranges from Romanticism through Victorian Literature while also writing award-winning SciFi; James Smith writes on contemporary politics as well as the eighteenth-century novel. We are also committed to the dissemination of our knowledge through public performance, radio broadcast and other media.

Our expertise has been recognised by a number of awards: Judith Hawley is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London; Adam Roberts is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Deana Rankin was awarded the American Conference for Irish Studies prize for best book on literature for Between Spenser and Swift: English Writing in Seventeenth-Century Ireland (Cambridge, 2005).

Dr Vicky Greenaway works on poetics, aesthetics and the visual arts in the long 19th century. She held a 2 year postdoctoral award from the Henry Moore Foundation to investigate the relationship between Romantic poetry and sculpture, and she has published on the second-generation Romantics and Italy. Her current research on Pedagogy and Activism in the Long 19thC takes her from Coleridge to Arnold. Dr Greenaway is a regular member of our Romanticisms teaching team.

Professor Judith Hawley is completing a major monograph on the influential satirical group, the Scriblerus Club, bringing together literary criticism, book history and group biography. Provisionally entitled Scribblers: Pope, Swift and a Club of Clever Fellows, it will analyse the convivial nature of eighteenth-century writing and explore the culture that produced major satires such as The Dunciad, The Beggar’s Opera and Gulliver’s Travels.

Her second main research project derives from the private theatricals which cause a rumpus in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. She has played a leading role in the development of the emerging discipline of amateur studies. With Mary Isbell (University of New Haven), she is co-director of RAPPT: an international network of scholars researching amateur performance and private theatricals. With colleagues at Royal Holloway, she formed the Amateur Studies Research Forum which will publish an edited collection in 2019. She has organised conferences, presented and published papers and will be producing a monograph on amateur theatre in the long eighteenth century.

Dr Deana Rankin’s current book project, Cities of Ladies: Staging Amazons from Late Antiquity to the Present Day, builds on her edition of Henry Burnell’s Dublin play Landgartha and her work on killing tyrants on the early modern stage. It focuses on moments where Amazon plays emerge against a background of political crisis from the ‘lost’ Amazon plays and ‘Female Worthies’ of the late sixteenth through eighteenth-century movements for women’s rights and education to the emergence of the complex Amazons of fourth-wave feminism, from Kill Bill to Wonder Woman. It investigates how political anxiety is played out, upon and through the Amazon body – at once violent and ascetic. She is working with University College Dublin and the Smock Alley Theatre, on a connected collaborative ‘Borders’ theatre project to stage Landgartha at RSA Dublin 2021, one hundred years on from the Irish War of Independence. This will be the first production since St Patrick’s Day 1640.

Dr Rankin continues to work with ‘Storming Utopia: A tempestuous experiment in practical Utopianism’, 2014.

This collaboration between the University of Oxford TORCH Knowledge Exchange Project, Pegasus Theatre and the Fondazione Cini, Venice involves a company of academics, youth theatre members and refugees seeking asylum in Oxford; it has worked with Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) and Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1616) to explore what kind of confederations, political and aesthetic, are possible, or worth dreaming our way towards, in our islands’ future.

Dr John Regan is currently writing a book provisionally titled How the Eighteenth Century Knew: a Digital-Conceptual History. This book uses computation to investigate the eighteenth-century data set ECCO, uncovering hitherto-invisible ways in which knowledge was structured in the historical textual record. The research is underwritten by the belief that concepts are ontologically different to the meanings of words, and that computation can allow us to find out something different in kind to what we know about eighteenth-century knowledge through close reading.

In addition to this work, Dr Regan is developing a new project which studies the surprising eighteenth century provenance of ideas that would go on to shape Darwin's theory of natural selection. Reading treatises on aesthetics, human perception and human development by Lords Monboddo and Kames, Frances Hutcheson and Joseph Addison among others, the study will demonstrate how theories of human development that emerge out of eighteenth-century aesthetics, end up as crucial foundations to an emergent evolutionary science.

Professor Adam Roberts is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture as well as a writer of science fiction novels and short stories. His recent academic work in the long eighteenth century includes scholarly editions of Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria and Lectures on Shakespeare (both Edinburgh University Press) and he is currently finishing a book on Coleridge’s Latin. His work on the nineteenth century includes Landor’s Cleanness (Oxford University Press, 2015); his H G Wells: a Literary Biography appeared in 2019. In addition, he has published over twenty SF novels, the most recent being Mount Purgatory (Gollancz, 2021). He also writes critically on Science Fiction and is planning on co-writing a brief critical history of modern Fantasy. He is an FRSL and Vice-President of the H G Wells Society.

Dr James Smith is the author of Samuel Richardson and the Theory of Tragedy: Clarissa’s Caesuras (Manchester University Press, 2016), Other People’s Politics: Populism to Corbynism (Zer0 Books, 2019), and Work Want Work: Labour and Desire at  the End of Capitalism (with Mareile Pfannebecker, Zed Books, 2020); as well as editor of a forthcoming essay volume, New Samuel Richardson, with Rebecca Anne Barr. 

His next book project brings together his political and eighteenth-century interests in a volume called Bad Enlightenment. The book returns to the ‘dialectical’ Enlightenment of Adorno and Horkheimer, Arendt, and Lacan, as a means of understanding the unreconciled problems of the eighteenth century in texts by Pope, Casanova, Wollstonecraft, and Sade, and as a warning against the repetition of those problems appearing across the political spectrum today.  


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