I’m interested in ideas of emotion, the history of how we feel, and how books shape feelings, and this is what drove my first book On Sympathy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). I am currently working on three projects.
The first, a monograph called Reading Well: Books and Medicine in the Nineteenth Century, considers the relationship between literature and bodily feeling, looking specifically in the intersection between medicine and literature. The book considers a variety of intriguing collisions between medicine and literature, such as the phenomenon of the drugseller-bookstore, the use of reading images on medical trade cards, hospital libraries, invalid literature, literary 'prescriptions', and medical advertising in fiction.
I also have a longstanding interest in what might be called the 'applied' Medical Humanities - in the ways in which literature and medicine interact today. For the last three years, I have led a series of seminars for those who work in the health service, and my third research project involves the development of this scheme. You can find out more about the seminars at https://drupal-pilot-litmed.it.ox.ac.uk/.
My second project focuses on the idea of attention in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century literature. Here I am focusing on the contemporary concern with over-stimulation, the emergence of what could be seen as an ‘attention economy’, and the ways in which artists posit a nineteenth-century version of ‘mindfulness’ and its relationship with ideas of conscience. I have an essay about Trollope and attention on this subject coming out soon with the journal Victorian Studies
My third project, tentatively called Anna Karenina’s Handbag: Literature and Other Object Lessons looks at an eclectic collection everyday ‘stuff’. This research, based on my undergraduate lectures, looks at objects and substances that usually get overlooked – such as curl papers, handbags, milk, underwear, and travel manuals, in order to shed light on our understanding of the nineteenth-century, and how the nineteenth-century might help us understand ourselves a little more.