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Biography

My research explores a wide range of subjects in the long eighteenth century and contemporary culture. I am interested in most forms of literature, the history of ideas and human lives. I am also interested in poetry. 

My book Balloon Madness: Flights of Imagination in Britain 1783-1786 (Boydell & Brewer, October 2017) explores imaginative responses to balloons in literature, material and visual culture as well as the history of technology and science. My previous book, Eighteenth-Century Letters and British Culture (Palgrave 2006; paperback 2010), won the ESSE Book Award for 2008. Besides these I have edited John Gay’s Trivia (1716) and co-edited seven essay collections.  

I am a Series Editor (with Max Saunders) of Palgrave’s Studies in Life Writing, and I co-direct the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s. I am an editor on the European Journal of Life Writing, ejlw.eu, and help edit its Creative Matters section too. 

As part of the Ego Media research group (2014-19), funded by the ERC to investigate life writing online, I have been researching digital forms of life writing. As part of that research I co-curated an exhibition, ‘Dear Diary: A Celebration of Diaries and their Digital Descendants’ (Inigo Rooms 26 May-7 July 2017). 

I am Project Director for a digital community project about the Strand: Strandlines – Lives on the Strand past, present and creative  which has made me interested in urban experience, especially in relation to smell and other senses.  

I’m currently working on underwater lives, especially aquanautics, and the relations between literature and science in marine and environmental contexts. My project also encompasses underwater photography, film and other arts.  

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students on any 18th century topic, and selected contemporary topics.  

For more details, please see my full research profile

Teaching

My teaching includes modules featuring 18th century literature, gender, life writings, travel writing, 20th century literature and poetry, and all of these figure one way or another in my research interests too. 

Expertise and Public Engagement

I've presented research on television, on radio and at numerous public events, covering 18C and contemporary topics. In 2011 I re-enacted an eighteenth-century balloon flight for the BBC’s The One Show.  The Centre for Life-Writing Research runs a full programme of events: recent activities include workshops on life writing and death, in association with the Wildgoose Memorial Library; conferences on relations between biography and portraiture from the 18C to the present, and life writing and translation. We also take part in London History Day.