I was born and grew up in Manchester, where I went to a state comprehensive. I studied at the University of York for my BA and MA and worked as a journalist, before taking my AHRC-funded PhD at King’s College London. My thesis was supervised by Professor Clare Brant and Dr Rowan Boyson and awarded in 2020. I have taught at King’s since 2017, and I was appointed Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature in 2021 and Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture in 2022. My monograph Written in the Country Churchyard: Place and Poetics, 1720–1820 is under review with Oxford University Press.
Research interests and PhD supervision
- Eighteenth-century and Romantic-period poetry; especially women poets, the mid-eighteenth century, and labouring-class poetry
- Poetic form, genre / mode, queer poetics; particularly the body, the senses, and place / environment / objects in the history and theory of poetry
- Cultural and intellectual history of the long eighteenth century; especially natural history / philosophy and antiquarianism, material culture, and gender
- Queer, feminist, and critical race perspectives on the literature and culture of the long eighteenth century
- Environmental humanities: ecocriticism, new materialisms, posthumanism, and queer and feminist ecology
My first monograph, Written in the Country Churchyard: Place and Poetics, 1720–1820, uncovers the persistent presence of the churchyard as both material place and cultural imaginary in poems by Thomas Parnell, Robert Blair, Thomas Gray, Mary Leapor, Ann Yearsley, Charlotte Smith, William Wordsworth, and John Clare. Across genres and modes like elegy, georgic, pastoral, and topographical poetry, and in a range of forms, these poets show how the deeply cultured earth of the churchyard, punctuated by bodies and texts, generates strikingly embodied acts of thinking and writing—of poetic making, or poiēsis.
My current project is provisionally titled Unearthly Objects, Unnatural Bodies: Queer Forms in Eighteenth-Century Women’s Poetry and focuses on work by Elizabeth Carter, Mary Leapor, Charlotte Smith, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Phillis Wheatley Peters, Ann Yearsley, and Felicia Hemans. Here I use perspectives from queer studies, critical race studies, and environmental humanities including queer and feminist ecocriticism to interpret the dynamic encounters with nonhuman objects and bodies depicted by these poets, from quills and nails to fossils and atoms. These materials are figured as strange and marginal, yet they take shape in poems as deviant, exuberant sources of energy, stimulating affects of curiosity, wonder, and estrangement that present cognitive and representational challenges. My project proposes that, in staging these encounters in a variety of poetic forms, eighteenth-century women poets reveal new ways of thinking and writing about the queer forms of the nonhuman while remaining committed to the politics of these terms for minoritarian and marginalised subjectivities. In thinking about forms as shapes of knowledge and language as well as bodies (both human and nonhuman), I am interested in the queer poetics of knowing and telling differently which is made available in eighteenth-century women’s poetry.
Find out more on my full research profile.
- Written in the Country Churchyard: Place and Poetics, 1720–1820. Under review with Oxford University Press
- ‘“Death’s Refreshing Shade”: Elizabeth Carter, “Church-yard Poetry”, and Contemplative Retirement in the Gardens of the Dead’, forthcoming in A Prospect of Improvement: The Bluestocking Landscape
- ‘“This ado in Earthing up a Carcase”: Robert Blair’s The Grave (1743) as Eighteenth-Century Churchyard Georgic’, forthcoming in Eighteenth-Century Studies
- ‘Un-earthing the Eighteenth-Century Churchyard: Charlotte Smith’s Life Writing Among the Dead’, European Journal of Life Writing 9, ‘Life Writing & Death: Dialogues of the Dead’, eds. Clare Brant, James Metcalf, and Jane Wildgoose (July 2020), 56–80
- With Clare Brant and Jane Wildgoose, eds., ‘Introduction: Life Writing and Death: Dialogues of the Dead’, European Journal of Life Writing 9, ‘Life Writing & Death: Dialogues of the Dead’ (July 2020), 1–18
I contribute to eighteenth-century and Romantic-period teaching at King’s, in addition to classes on poetry and queer studies. I design and deliver lectures and seminars across all year groups, and I supervise undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations on topics related to my research interests.
Expertise and public engagement
I am a member of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the British Association of Romantic Studies, and the Arts of Place Research Network at the University of Birmingham. I have written reviews for Journal of Literature and Science and for Eighteenth-Century Studies, where I have also peer reviewed article submissions. And I have presented conference papers at the University of Sheffield, the School of Advanced Study, King’s College London, Hagley Hall in Worcestershire, the University of Birmingham, Université Paris Cité, Ghent University, and the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of Oxford. In 2018 I was a Research Fellow at the Huntington Library, California.
Metcalf, J., 10 Jan 2022, In: Eighteenth-Century Studies. 55, 2, p. 255–58 Research output: Contribution to journal › Book/Film/Article review. DOIs: https://doi.org/10.1353/ecs.2022.0011
Metcalf, J., 2021, In: Journal of Literature and Science. 14, 1–2, p. 150–151 1 p. Research output: Contribution to journal › Book/Film/Article review
Metcalf, J., Jul 2020, In: The European Journal of Life Writing. 9, p. 56–80 Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-review. DOIs: https://doi.org/10.21827/ejlw.9.36900
Brant, C., Metcalf, J. & Wildgoose, J., Jul 2020, In: The European Journal of Life Writing. 9, p. 1–18 Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-review. DOIs: https://doi.org/10.21827/ejlw.9.36938
Metcalf, J., Jul 2020, In: The European Journal of Life Writing. 9, p. 60–69 Research output: Contribution to journal › Article. DOIs: https://doi.org/10.21827/ejlw.9.36919