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Dr Rowan Rose Boyson studied for her BA and MPhil at the University of Cambridge, and was a Knox Fellow at Harvard University. Her PhD was supervised by Paul Hamilton at Queen Mary, University of London and awarded in 2008. She taught at Queen Mary and at London Metropolitan before being elected as a Junior Research Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge in 2009. She has been at KCL since 2012.

Research Interests and PhD Supervision

  • History and theory of the senses
  • Eighteenth-century and Romantic poetry, especially Wordsworth
  • History of ideas, political philosophy
  • Aesthetics

Rowan Boyson’s current project is a philosophical-cultural history of smell rooted in the Enlightenment and Romantic periods. Research questions include the relation of materialism and imagination in early-Enlightenment thought, critical concepts of Romantic lyric sensuousness, and narratives of the senses in relation to political and cultural theories of modernity. She has published chapters and articles on smell and the senses (see ‘Selected Publications’). She is also developing research into the topics of waste, idleness and rest, especially in relation to Rousseau.

Previous work has focused on the interplay of aesthetics and politics in the long eighteenth century. Her first monograph, Wordsworth and the Enlightenment Idea of Pleasure, (2012, paperback 2015), won the University English Early Career Book Prize in 2013. It has been reviewed in Romanticism, European Romantic Review, The Wordsworth Circle, the BARS Bulletin and Review and Studies in Romanticism. The book considered the political and ethical problem of pleasure for a range of Enlightenment thinkers including Shaftesbury, Kant, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft before examining William Wordsworth’s treatment of the theme and its critical legacy.

With Tom Jones she edited The Poetic Enlightenment: Poetry and Human Science 1660-1820. She has also published a number of review-essays on topics ranging from gift theory to anthropology and perfume, in Cambridge Quarterly, Eighteenth-Century Life, Social History of Medicine, and Studies in Romanticism.

She has supervised or second-supervised PhDs in the cultural history of smell, the reception of Lucretius, eighteenth-century military veterans and Coleridge. She would be very interested to hear from research students wishing to work on topics relating to any of the interests outlined above.

For full details, please see her research profile.


Rowan Boyson’s teaching expertise ranges from the history of the novel, eighteenth-century poetry, Romantic poetry to literature-and-economics. Previous teaching has included Foucault, contemporary theory, eighteenth-century London, and pleasure and happiness in the long eighteenth century.

The modules she has convened and taught at KCL include:


  • 4AAEA003 Reading Poetry
  • 5AAEB020 The Rise of the Novel
  • 5AAEB044 Lyric and the Inner Life
  • 6AAEB020 Waste and Idleness in the Eighteenth Century


  • 7AAEM608 Women and the Poetics of Liberty
  • 7AAEM738 Poetic Moods, Poetic Movements 1660-1800