Personal profile


I was born in East London and grew up in Essex. I did my undergraduate and graduate study in English literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, and then taught at Cambridge from 1995 to 2006, and at Oxford from 2006 to 2011, before joining UEA in 2012.

My research and teaching interests take in British literature from 1700 to the present day, and American literature from 1900. My doctoral research was on Jane Austen, and I have gone on to work in detail on other nineteenth-century novelists such as Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy, as well as on British Modernist writers such as Henry Green.

In addition to my academic research and teaching, I have been active since 1994 as a commentator on contemporary British and American fiction and culture, writing regularly for publications such as The Times Literary Supplement and The Daily Telegraph. My activities in this area led to my serving as one of the judges for the 2012 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

I am particularly interested in Romantic period fiction, ghosts and the Victorian imagination, fictional representations of urban space, contemporary British fiction, and the various ways in which literary style can embody and dramatise the complexities of writers' relations to their historical and cultural contexts, and would be interested in hearing from potential graduate students in any of these areas.

Selected Publications

Articles and book chapters:

'Editing Keats's Hands', in Joe Bray, Miriam Handley, and Anne C. Henry (eds), Ma(r)king the Text: The Presentation of Meaning on the Literary Page (Ashgate, 2000)

'Singing the Sofa: Mansfield Park and William Cowper', in Fiona L. Price and Scott Masson (eds), Silence, Sublimity, and Suppression in the Romantic Period (Mellen Press, 2002)

'"...among the ruins...": Narrative Archaeology in The Mayor of Casterbridge', Studies in the Novel, 35:4 (Winter 2003)

'Henry Green', in Adrian Poole (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to English Novelists (CUP, 2009)

'The Historical Background', in Janet Todd (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to 'Pride and Prejudice' (CUP, 2013)

'Reading the Book of Himself: The Uncommercial Traveller and "Dickensian" Style', in Daniel Tyler (ed.), Dickens's Style (CUP, 2013)

'Victorian Shakespeares' in Matthew Bevis (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Poetry (OUP, 2013)

'Philip Roth's Kinds of Writing', in Fiona Green (ed.), Writing for The New Yorker: Critical Essays on an American Periodical (Edinburgh University Press, 2015)

'The Literary Context' in Peter Sabor (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to 'Emma' (CUP, 2015)

'Labours not her own: Emma and the Invisible World', Persuasions 38 (2016)

'Strips of Essayism: Eliot, Hardy, and Victorian Essay-Writing', in Kathryn Murphy and Thomas Karshan (eds), On Essays: from Montaigne to the Present (OUP, 2020)

'Austen's Inharmonious Numbers', Persuasions 42 (2020)

'Punctuation' in Daniel Tyler (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Prose (CUP, 2021)

Foreword to Kevin Jackson, Withnail and I, second edition (BFI/Bloomsbury, 2022)


More than sixty pieces for The Times Literary Supplement, from 1994 to the present


Jane Austen and the Morality of Conversation (Anthem Press, 2003)

Ghosts of Sound: Haunting Figures in Victorian Writing (Anthem Press, forthcoming)

Critical editions:

Jane Austen, Emma: An Annotated Edition (Harvard University Press, 2012)


Key Research Interests

I am interested in the relations between literature, manner, and 'manners', which formed the central concern of my first book, Jane Austen and the Morality of Conversation (Anthem Press, 2003), and my scholarly interest in Austen continues in my annotated edition of Emma (Harvard University Press, 2013).

My forthcoming monograph, Ghosts of Sound: Haunting Figures in Victorian Writing (Anthem Press), is a wide-ranging exploration of different ways in which both literal and metaphorical 'hauntings', and their associated figures of textual repetition and echo, offered nineteenth-century writers (including Dickens, Gaskell, Eliot, and Hardy) means by which to comprehend (or at least apprehend) their relations to time and history.

My ongoing projects include an exploration of the use of numbers in realist fiction and beyond, and a large, interdisciplinary study of imaginative representations of the act of writing in nineteenth-century literature and culture.

Teaching Interests

Modules taught include:

First Year:

  • Reading Literature in History
  • Reading Now
  • Writing Across Borders

Second Year:

  • Victorian Writing
  • Eighteenth-Century Writing
  • Romanticism
  • Modernism 

Third year:

  • The Art of Murder
  • Fantastic Realisms

External positions

International Collaborator at the Inter-University Center for the Study of Romanticism (CISR), University of Bologna

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