Research interests

  • Enlightenment and Romantic literature (especially poetry) and philosophy
  • European intellectual history, 17th–20th centuries
  • Comparative literature (British, German, French, Italian)
  • Historicization and aesthetics
  • Classical reception
  • Enlightenment and Romantic visual culture (including architecture)
  • Literary history and theory (especially genre theory and issues of periodization)
  • Anglo-Italian and Anglo-German literary and cultural relations

Romantic symbol. My book The Genealogy of the Romantic Symbol (2007) anlayses an historically significant attempt to overcome, by means bequeathed by the Enlightenment itself, a profounf dissatisfaction with the dualisms of Enlightenment epistemology, semiotics, aesthetics, and natural science. A primary purpose of the book was to explain what intellectual purposes the Romantic theorization of the symbol—which was very influential in post-romantic criticism and has caused much contention in critical theory since the 1960s—served in the nineteenth century. The book’s own genealogy is recounted in my article ‘Telling Stories about Romantic Theory’ (2012), and its central argument is summarized in my discussion with Robert Harrison in his radio programme Entitled Opinions. Various of the contributors to the collection Symbol and Intuition (2013), to which I wrote an afterword, engage with aspects of the Genealogy‘s argument, and the book has been praised by philosophers (e.g., Miguel de Beistegui), historians (e.g., Warren Breckman), and literary critics (e.g., Terry Eagleton). Related work on symbol and allegory appears in my chapters in The Oxford Handbook of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Allegory.

Historicization and aesthetics. More recently I have been writings about historical consciousness and the aestheticization of the past in poetry, painting, and architecture of the ‘long eighteenth century’ (e.g., in representations of imaginary ruins and historically referential architectural styles), as well as on the relation of the Romantics’ self-consciously new literary forms to traditional genres and genre theory (e.g., Lord Byron’s ironization of epic in Don Juan). I was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship for 2015–17 to work on a comparative study of the connection of historical understanding to aesthetic theory and artistic form, History’s Forms: Aesthetics and the Past in the Age of Historcization, 1650–1850. An anticipation of some of the book’s arguments was published in Modern Language Quarterly in September 2013. Outgrowths of this project include chapters and lectures on the discontents of historicization more generally and on historical periodization.

My recent publications in intellectual history include chapters on European Romanticism (in The Cambridge History of Modern European Thought), on the reception of Spinoza (in La fortuna di Spinoza in età moderna e contemporanea), and on German Romantic thought (specifically, Hölderlin, Novalis, and Friedrich Schlegel; in Thought: A Philosophical History).

Further projects include a book on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s intellectual formation and book on Byron as a European poet.

I have also done a good deal of scholarly editing, especially of Coleridge, and served on the Modern Language Association’s Committee on Scholarly Editions (in 2007–9 as co-chair). From 2010 to 2018 I was an Advisory Editor of one of Oxford University Press’s most ambitious and complex digital projects, Oxford Scholarly Editions Online. My Norton Critical Edition of Wordsworth’s Poetry and Prose (2013), described in the Times Literary Supplement as ‘likely to set the agenda for classroom study of Wordsworth for years to come’ and ‘an essential text for scholars’, contains a generous selection of the poetry and critical prose, including a newly edited and annotated text of the 1805 Prelude and—for the first time—facing texts of The Ruined Cottage and book 1 of The Excursion.

The range of my research interests is more fully reflected in the list of publications linked below.

In winter 2011 I was a visiting Professor of English at Stanford University, in October 2018 a Visiting Scholar at the Università di Bologna, and from December 2019 to January 2020 a Visiting Scholar at the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung in Berlin. I have twice served on the Advisory Board of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, mostly recently (in 2015 and 2016) as chair. I am currently a member of the editorial board of the series Close Reading: Schriften zur britischen Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaft, published by Vandenhoeck & Rupprecht, and have formerly been a member of the editorial boards of Romanticism on the Net (1996–2018, as reviews editor from 2004 to 2008) and Modern Language Quarterly (2006–8).

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