Professor of English, University of Southampton

My latest publications arise from research carried out in the course of a Leverhulme Trust Major Fellowship on ‘Romantic-era Women Writers and the Question of Economic Progress’ (2013-16).

Jane Austen: The Banker’s Sister (Biteback, 2017) marks the launch of the £10 banknote bearing her image by delving into the history of the first Austen banknotes, issued by her brother Henry’s bank business. Henry supported Jane in establishing herself as a novelist; she frequently stayed with him in London and socialised in his circle of financiers. My study reveals how her works were shaped by an acute awareness of the economic scandals, crises and speculations of the Regency era and offers a reappraisal of the political connections and economic interests of the Austen family.

Eighteen Hundred and Eleven: Poetry, Protest and Economic Crisis (Cambridge University Press, 2017) takes a striking episode in Romantic-era culture as the basis for exploring poetry as a medium of political protest. In 1811 England was on the brink of economic collapse and revolution. The veteran poet and campaigner Anna Letitia Barbauld published a prophecy of the British nation reduced to ruins by its refusal to end the interminable war with France, titled Eighteen Hundred and Eleven. This study dispels the myth surrounding the hostile reception of the poem and looks at the way a wide range of writers, including the canonical Romantic poets and a host of journalists from the radical Cobbett to the reactionary Croker, addressed the politics of war and economic crisis.

I have a number of areas of expertise in the cultural history of the period 1660-1830:
Jane Austen. I frequently speak on Jane Austen and her work to academic and general audiences. In addition to Jane Austen: The Banker’s Sister, see my contributions to A Companion to Jane Austen (Blackwell, 2009) and The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen (CUP, 2011), and the Radio 4 In Our Time programme on Emma.

Women’s writing in the long eighteenth century. Among recent publications see ‘Free Market Feminism? The Political Economy of Women’s Writing,’ in Women's Writing 1660-1830: Feminisms, Fictions and Futures ed. Jennie Batchelor and Gillian Dow (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and ‘To dazzle let the Vain design: Alexander Pope’s Portrait Gallery and the Impossibility of Brilliant Women’, in Bluestockings Displayed: Portraiture, Performance and Patronage, 1730-1830, ed. Elizabeth Eger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). Broadcasting in this area includes ‘How to be a Lady’ (BBC2, 2013) and co-organising a panel on Mary Wollstonecraft in the British Academy series ‘Thinkers for Our Time’ (2016).

Literary engagements with economic debate. See for instance my monograph, The Feminization Debate in Eighteenth-Century England: Literature, Commerce and Luxury (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and ‘Anna Letitia Barbauld and the Ethics of Free Trade Imperialism,’ in British Romanticism: Criticism and Debates, ed. Mark Canuel (Routledge, 2015), and ‘Women’s Writing and the Luxury Debate’, A History of British Women’s Writing, vol. 4, 1690-1750, ed. Ros Ballaster (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

Print culture. Publications include Authorship, Commerce, and the Public: Scenes of Writing 1750-1850 (co-edited, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), and ‘Novels of the 1750s’ in The Oxford History of the Novel, Volume 2, 1750-1820, ed. Peter Garside and Karen O’Brien (OUP, 2015). Broadcasting in this area includes ‘The Birth of the British Novel’ (BBC4, 2011), ‘How Reading Made Us Modern’ (BBC4, 2009).

Gothic writing. Publications include Women’s Gothic from Clara Reeve to Mary Shelley (British Council, 2000, 2004), Gothic Documents 1700-1820 (co-edited, Manchester University Press, 2000) and The Rise of Supernatural Fiction, 1762-1800 (Cambridge University Press, 1995, 1999). Broadcasts include Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’ programme on Gothic (2001).

Experience

  • –present
    Professor of English, University of Southampton