Dr Samantha Matthews

BA, MA, PhD(Lond.)

  • BS8 1TB

Personal profile

Research interests

I am the current Head of the Department of English (1 August 2020-31 August 2024).

I have wide-ranging and interdisciplinary research interests in the literature and visual and material culture of the ‘long’ nineteenth century (c. 1780-1920). The two main strands to my ongoing research are albums and album poetry in manuscript and print and Victorian literary ‘afterlives’, reception history and the reader. Both develop from my doctoral work on non-canonical poetry, and from my first book, Poetical Remains: Poets’ Graves, Bodies, and Books in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2004), which considers the productive relations between dead poets and their literal and literary ‘remains.’

I have a long-standing interest in the significance of handwriting and the autograph during the rise of mass print culture in the nineteenth century, when the signature connotes both unique subjectivity and the impossibility of originality. This has developed into two discrete book projects on neglected literary forms: a completed study of the album poem, a distinctive kind of occasional, manuscript poem found in the published oeuvres of Wordsworth, Byron, Hemans, Browning, Tennyson and many less-read poets; and, in progress, a cultural history of the confession album, a phenomenally popular later-Victorian form of interactive book designed around responses to printed questionnaires. In both I seek to open new perspectives on the role of women, working-class, non-canonical and non-professional poets, and the implications for our understanding of authorship, readers and readerships. In 2012 I held a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship for the project ‘The Album Poem and Nineteenth-Century Manuscript Culture’. As part of this project I gave public lectures and led workshops at the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere. At the University I am a member of the Faculty of Arts' Centre for Creative Technologies, and two Department of English research groupings, 'The Long Nineteenth Century' and 'Digital and Material Texts'.

My most recent monograph, Album Verses and Romantic Literary Culture: Poetry, Manuscript, Print 1780-1850 (Oxford University Press, 2020), complicates the received idea of the nineteenth century as the age of mass print media by examining the popular revival in domestic manuscript circulation of creative work, through the case of poetry composed for albums, an overlooked genre of occasional lyric poetry not destined for print publication. Based on a textual corpus derived from archival and database sources, the project develops an interpretive model drawn from theories of scribal publication, creative composition and French critique génétique. Case studies of specific authors, albums and readerships demonstrate album poetry’s significance for revisionary perspectives on identity, gender and power relations.

My interest in the material text and reception history has led me to literary editing. I am a volume editor for The Collected Works of Charles and Mary Lamb for Oxford University Press, under the general editorship of Gregory Dart (UCL). This 6-volume edition is the first complete modern scholarly edition of the Lambs’ works, and will replace E. V. Lucas’s standard edition (1912). I am editing volume 5, Album Verses (1830) and Uncollected Poems (2026), and have presented papers on this work in progress at the British Association of Romantic Studies conference and to the Charles Lamb Society.

I am experienced in University administration. I was Deputy Head of English (Education) and Programme Director for English undergraduate programmes for 2013-16. I led a major review of the undergraduate curriculum, which culminated in a new curriculum rolled out from 2016/17. I was Chair of the Faculty of Arts FQT (Faculty Quality Team) 2017-19, where I led annual reviews to assure educational quality and standards, and am a Critical Friend for new programme development across the University.

I enjoy teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses in my periods of specialism (Romantic and Victorian literature) and related areas (the city in literature; post-Victorian literary and cultural responses to the Victorian; Children’s and Young Adult literature and the representation of children in literature and culture; Charles Dickens). Recent units taught include: Literature 1740-1900; Victorian Fiction: Art and Ideas in the Marketplace; Darkest London; Literature’s Children; Romantic Poetry and Poetics; Victorian Literature and Place; The Gothic; Approaches to Poetry. I supervise undergraduate and masters dissertations on a wide range of authors and topics.

I am currently supervising postgraduate research students working on Chinese translations of Lewis Carroll's Alice books, the body and senses in later-nineteenth century French and British sensation fiction, representations of Indian women's clothing and accessories in nineteenth-century women's writing in Britain and in India, and an ecocritical fantasy fiction for young people (Creative Writing PhD). Other topics by my recent successful postgraduates include: the 1893 Dent Le Morte D'Arthur illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley; the representation of alcohol and drinking cultures in Victorian fiction; hysteria in women’s fiction since 1850; hairwork in Victorian literature and culture; embodiment in H. G. Wells's scientific romances. I received the Students’ Award for the Outstanding Supervision of Research Students in the 2016 Bristol Teaching Awards. I welcome applications from potential PhD and MPhil students for projects related to my research and teaching interests. Proposals for research projects adopting an interdisciplinary approach, exploring relations between literary and visual cultures, or between print and manuscript, or focusing on non-canonical Romantic and Victorian authors, are particularly welcome.  

External positions

External Examiner, University of York

29 Nov 20161 Nov 2020


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