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Reader in Cultural History, University of Portsmouth

I joined the University of Portsmouth in 2007, having previously taught at the University of East Anglia. My research explores the history of the fantastical imagination. I take this to include magical and supernatural beliefs, witchcraft and the occult, prophecies, legends and folklore, monsters and teratology, the Gothic, and (proto-) science-fiction tropes in the modern period (anything post-1700). I am happy to supervise PhDs on any of these topics. My first monograph, The Magical Imagination: Magic and Modernity in Urban England, 1780-1914 was shortlisted for the Royal Historical Society’s 2012 Whitfield Prize. My second book, The Legend of Spring-heeled Jack: Victorian Urban Folklore and Popular Cultures won the Katharine Briggs Award in 2013.

I am a keen advocate of public engagement and frequently seek to develop collaborations with creative writers and other artistic practitioners. Previous activities include the crowdsourcing of local ghost stories and the co-editing of Dark City, a collection of short stories and poems produced by local writers. Between 20216-20 I was the director of Portsmouth DarkFest, a new cultural festival that drew its inspiration from my Supernatural Cities project ( This festival was developed in collaboration with the Portsmouth Writers Hub, the 1000 Plateaus art collective and other artistic communities within the city.

I teach across the undergraduate programme, including a level 5 module on popular culture in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain and the USA, and my level 6 Special Subject, Magic and Modernity 1800-1920. I am the course leader for the postgraduate (distance learning) MA Victorian Gothic: History, Literature and Culture, and I also supervise a range of PhDs.


  • –present
    Reader in Cultural History, University of Portsmouth