I was born in Yorkshire and grew up in Essex, where I went to a grammar (state) school. I studied at Cambridge for my BA and MPhil, before travelling to America to study as a Knox Fellow at Harvard University. I returned to London, where my PhD, entitled ‘Communis Voluptas: Pleasure in Wordsworth and Eighteenth-Century Thought’, was supervised by Professor Paul Hamilton at Queen Mary, University of London and awarded in 2008. I taught at Queen Mary and at London Metropolitan before being elected as a Junior Research Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge in 2009, where I worked on my first monograph. In 2012 I was appointed Lecturer at KCL, and made Senior Lecturer in 2016. I have two young children.
Research Interests and PhD Supervision
- Environmental humanities, air and atmosphere
- History of the senses
- Eighteenth-century and Romantic poetry, especially Wordsworth and Shelley
- History of philosophy and political thought, especially Shaftesbury, Rousseau, Kant and Wollstonecraft
- Critical theory and aesthetics
My current project is provisionally entitled The Shared Air: Atmosphere and the Right to Breathe in Enlightenment Britain, and I was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2021-22) to work on this. The Shared Air offers a history of how writers and scientists from 1640-1840 debated the political implications of air. Usually invisible and seemingly immaterial, air often goes unnoticed, yet when it is apprehended – as scent, freshness or pollution - air is recognised as a common resource and a symbol of freedom. In this symbol lies a nascent concept of a right to clean air, and its inescapably shared nature. This topic emerged from my previous work on smell and the history of the senses in eighteenth-century and Romantic literature, as well as my first monograph on the philosophy of shared pleasure in the eighteenth century. I am also interested in the history and experience of anosmia, and have recently been awarded King’s Together funding to set up an interdisciplinary network and series of events entitled ‘Anosmia: Smell Losses / Smell Lessons’, which will consider anosmia in the context of the industrial revolution, modern air pollution, and Covid.
For full details, please see her research profile.
- ‘Mary Wollstonecraft and the Right to Air’, Romanticism 27: 2 (2021), 173-186
- ‘Rousseau's Boat: The 'Fifth Walk', Romanticism and Idleness, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and British Romanticism, ed. Russell Goulbourne, David Higgin (Bloomsbury, 2017), 167-186
- ‘Shelley’s Republic of Odours: Aesthetic and political dimensions of scent in “The Sensitive-Plant”’, Keats-Shelley Review, 27: 2, (2013) 105–20
- With Tom Jones, ed., The Poetic Enlightenment: Poetry and Human Science, 1650-1820 (Pickering and Chatto, 2013)
- Wordsworth and the Enlightenment Idea of Pleasure (CUP, 2012), winner of the 2013 College English prize.
I contribute to all our eighteenth-century and Romantic teaching, including the history of the novel and the Godwin-Shelley circle, as well as lecturing on introductory modules on poetry and London writing. Research-led teaching at level 6 and 7 has included modules on eighteenth-century and contemporary theories of economy, work and idleness, the senses and lyric poetry, and eco-critical and Anthropocene approaches to nineteenth-century literature. MA modules I have offered have included poetry and poetics from 1660-1800, London literature, and women Romantic writers. I regularly convene the MA in Eighteenth-Century Studies and have curated clusters of sessions on Critical Enlightenments.
Expertise and Public Engagement
I have experience of public engagement and media, for instance working with artist Caroline Wendling on a smell tour of Cambridge and speaking at fragrance expert Lizzie Ostrom’s perfume events, as well as contributing to a Radio 4 documentary on echoes. I am on the advisory board of ODEUROPA.
Boyson, R. R., 28 Feb 2022, In: Literature Compass. 19, 1-2, e12654. Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-review. DOIs: https://doi.org/10.1111/lic3.12654
Boyson, R., Jul 2021, In: Romanticism. 27, 2, p. 173-186 14 p. Research output: Contribution to journal › Review article › peer-review. DOIs: https://doi.org/10.3366/rom.2021.0507
Boyson, R. R., 20 Sep 2018, A Cultural History of the Senses in the Enlightenment. Vila, A. C. (ed.). London: Bloomsbury Academic, Vol. 4. p. 155-178 24 p. (The Cultural Histories series). Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter
Boyson, R. R., 2018, In: Keats-Shelley Review. 32, 1, p. 77-79 2 p. Research output: Contribution to journal › Book/Film/Article review. DOIs: https://doi.org/10.1080/09524142.2018.1452694
Boyson, R., 18 May 2017, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and British Romanticism : Gender and Selfhood, Politics and Nation. Goulbourne, R. & Higgins, D. (eds.). London: Bloomsbury Academic, p. 167-186 20 p. Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter
Boyson, R. R., 3 Oct 2016, In: L'Atelier. 8, 1 Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Boyson, R., 1 Sep 2013, In: Keats-Shelley Review. 27, 2, p. 105–20 16 p. Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-review. DOIs: https://doi.org/10.1179/0952414213Z.00000000029
Jones, T. (ed.) & Boyson, R. (ed.), May 2013, London: Pickering and Chatto. 224 p. (Enlightenment Worlds) Research output: Book/Report › Book
Boyson, R., 2013, In: SOCIAL HISTORY OF MEDICINE. 26, 1, p. 150-151 Research output: Contribution to journal › Book/Film/Article review › peer-review. DOIs: https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/hks096
Boyson, R., 2013, Grasmere 2013: Selected Papers from the Wordsworth Summer Conference. Gravil, R. (ed.). Penrith: HEB Humanities-Ebooks, LLP, p. 63-73 10 p. Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter