Nineteenth-Century Literature at Goldsmiths


Nineteenth-Century Literature reflects and contributes to a period of profound cultural change.

A photograph by Peter Coles (CUCR Research Fellow) of the Musée Rodin, Paris.  Not to be reproduced without PC's permission.

Our programmes investigate the poetry, novels, non-fictional prose, and drama of this century of industrialisation, urbanisation, empire, nationalism, scientific transformation, bureaucratisation, political consciousness, and religious crisis.


Nineteenth-Century Literature in ECL brings together 'the long eighteenth century' and 'the long nineteenth century' in literary and cultural studies. A distinctive feature of our research in nineteenth-century literature and culture is its purposeful ranging across the period in the search for, and pursuit of, larger patterns.

This strategy informs our BA programmes and our Romantics & Victorians MA pathway. Thus, our research also extends beyond British literature into a comparative dimension that encompasses European and Greco-Roman traditions.



... all our systems and theories are but so many froth-eddies or sandbanks, which from time to time she casts up, and washes away. When we can drain the Ocean into mill-ponds, and bottle-up the Force of Gravity, to be sold by retail, in gas jars; then may we hope to comprehend the infinitudes of man's soul under formulas of Profit and Loss; and rule over this too, as over a patent engine, by checks, and valves, and balances. 

- Thomas Carlyle, Signs of the Times (1829)


Jane Desmarais and Alice Condé, eds, Decadence and the Senses (Legenda, 2017)
Jane Desmarais and Chris Baldick, Arthur Symons: Selected Early Poems (Modern Humanities Research Association, 2017)
Frances Wilson, Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey (Bloomsbury, 2016)
Chris Baldick and Jane Desmarais, eds, Decadence: From Petronius to Proust: An Annotated Anthology (Manchester University Press, 2013)
Miranda El-Rayess, Henry James and the Culture of Consumption (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
Uttara Natarajan, ed., The Romantic Poets: A Guide to Criticism (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007)
Isobel Hurst, Victorian Women Writers and the Classics: The Feminine of Homer. Classical Presences (Oxford University Press, 2006)
Frances Wilson, The Courtesan
Jane Desmarais, The Beardsley Industry: The Critical Reception in England and France, 1893-1914 (Ashgate, 1998)
Nell Stevens, Mrs Gaskell and Me: Two Women, Two Love Stories, Two Centuries Apart (Picador, 2018)
Michael Simpson, Closet Performances: Political Exhibition and Prohibition in the Dramas of Byron and Shelley (Stanford University Press, 1998)
Jane Desmarais, A Cultural History of Hothouse Flowers from 1850 to the Present (Reaktion, 2018)


Profile of Professor Chris Baldick

Professor Chris Baldick

Chris Baldick’s research in the field of 19th-century literature has followed a number of strands. In the history of literary criticism, he has traced the evolution of critical thought from Arnold, Pater and Wilde into twentieth-century adaptations. Chris has also focused on Gothic fiction, as in the widely-used anthology The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales (1990), and further work on shorter Gothic and related fiction has included two annotated selections (both edited with the Canadian scholar Robert Morrison). With regard to writings of the Decadent tradition: he was co-editor with Jane Desmarais of Decadence: An Annotated Anthology (2012) and of Arthur Symons: Selected Early Poems (2017).

Profile of Alice Condé

Dr Alice Condé

Alice Condé is a Lecturer (Fractional) in the Department of English and Creative Writing. Her research is primarily focused on decadence as a critical concept at the fin de siècle and today. She is interested in masochistic men and cruel women in nineteenth-century decadent fictions, and in our understanding of decadence in contemporary subculture with reference to queerness, drag, and social decline. She is co-editor of Decadence and the Senses (with Jane Desmarais, 2017) and In Cynara’s Shadow: Collected Essays on Ernest Dowson (with Jessica Gossling, 2019). Her essay on ‘Decadence and Popular Culture’ can be found in Jane Desmarais and David Weir’s Decadence and Literature (2019).

Profile of Jane Desmarais

Professor Jane Desmarais

Jane Desmarais is Director of the Decadence Research Unit. 

Her research is primarily focused on nineteenth-century literature and visual culture: she is interested in literary, visual, and musical decadence and its relationship to other forms of discourse; Anglo-French cultural relations at the fin de siècle; and decadence and translation.

She also publishes on history and psychoanalysis.

Her monograph, Monsters under Glass: A Cultural History of Hothouse Flowers, 1850 to the Present was published by Reaktion Books in 2018,and she has edited (both with David Weir) a volume of essays on Decadence and Literature for the Cambridge Critical Concepts series (2019) and The Oxford Handbook of Decadence (2021). 

She is Editor-in-Chief of the online open-access interdisciplinary journal of decadence studies, Volupté.

Miranda El-Rayess

Dr Miranda El-Rayess

Miranda El-Rayess’s main area of research is late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature and culture, particularly the work of Henry James. She is the author of Henry James and the Culture of Consumption (Cambridge UP, 2014) as well as several essays on James. She is currently co-editing a volume of short stories for The Cambridge Edition of the Complete Fiction of Henry James, and working on two essays inspired by her research for this scholarly edition.

Profile of Jessica Gossling

Dr Jessica Gossling

Jessica Gossling's research is primarily focused on French and English literary decadence, spatial theory, and occulture. She is a member of the Decadence Research Centre and she completed her PhD on Decadent Threshold Poetics in 2018. She is co-editor, with Alice Condé, of In Cynara’s Shadow: Collected Essays on Ernest Dowson (Peter Lang in 2019), her essay on 'À rebours and the House at Fontenay' is published in Decadence and the Senses, and her essay on decadent interior design can be read in the Oxford Handbook of Decadence. Currently, she is working on her monograph on decadent threshold poetics. Jessica is also Deputy Editor of Volupté and Treasurer of the British Association of Decadence Studies (BADS).

Isobel Hurst's book, Victorian Women Writers and the Classics

Dr Isobel Hurst

Isobel Hurst’s research examines the reception of Greek and Latin literature in English, looking at the connection between classical education and authorship and women writers’ creative engagement with the classical tradition. She is the author of Victorian Women Writers and the Classics: The Feminine of Homer (2006) and is currently completing a book, Muse and Minerva: Transatlantic Women Writers and the Classical Tradition. She has written essays on Victorian poetry and the classics for the Oxford Handbook of Victorian Poetry (2013) and the Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature (2015), and has recently contributed to two volumes in Oxford University Press’s Classical Presences series: Oscar Wilde and Classical Antiquity (2017) and Pater the Classicist (2017). Isobel's essay on Victorian classicism and the Italian Risorgimento appears in Classicising Crisis: The Modern Age of Revolutions and the Greco-Roman Repertoire (2020), edited by Michael Simpson and Barbara Goff.


Profile of Dr Uttara Natarajan

Dr Uttara Natarajan

Uttara Natarajan’s current research is in the Romantic legacy in Victorian prose, and she is particularly concerned with the changing configurations of the relations between aesthetics, ethics, and affect in nineteenth-century literature.  She has published extensively on Romantic and Victorian authors, the latter including, most recently, Ruskin and Dickens.  Uttara is an established authority on the Romantic essayist, William Hazlitt. She is on the founding committee of the Hazlitt Society and edits The Hazlitt Review. She also co-organizes the annual Hazlitt Day School with Professor Gregory Dart at UCL.  To hear Uttara in conversation on Hazlitt in BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time and on BBC Radio 4 Great LivesFor information on the Hazlitt Society, The Hazlitt Review and the annual Hazlitt Day School.

Profile of Dr Michael Simpson

Dr Michael Simpson

Michael Simpson has published critical work across the broad field of Romantic literary culture on drama and theatre, poetry and the novel. Before coming to Goldsmiths, he held teaching and research positions at several universities in the USA. Michael is also a scholar of Classical Reception, and contributed the entry on ‘Classical Greek Drama’ to The Encyclopedia of Romantic Literature (ed. Fred Burwick, 2012). On the Romantics & Victorians MA pathway, he teaches the module ‘Romantic Shakespeare’, concerning the Romantic reception of Shakespeare’s plays. Michael’s current research is on the theme of distraction in Romantic literary culture, on which he has a book in the making.

Profile of Nell Stevens

Dr Nell Stevens

Nell Stevens is a writer of memoir and fiction. Her memoir Mrs Gaskell & Me (2018) combines life writing with historical fiction to explore the personal and transformative relationship between researcher and subject.  Her first book Bleaker House (2017), is an exploration of the narrow spaces between life and fiction, and the ways that writing can traverse and complicate genre.

Profile of Dr Frances Wilson

Dr Frances Wilson

Frances Wilson’s research is focused on Romantic life-writing, particularly memoirs, journals and the ‘growth of the mind’ described by Wordsworth and Thomas De Quincey. Her biographies include The Courtesan’s Revenge: Harriette Wilson, the Woman Who Blackmailed the King (2003), The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth (2008), and Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey (2016). Recent essays include the chapter on ‘Romantic Autobiography’ in The Cambridge Companion to Autobiography (ed. Maria DiBatista, 2015) and ‘Wordsworth’s Sweating Pages: The Love Letters of William and Mary Wordsworth’ in Letter Writing Among Poets (ed. Jonathan Ellis, Edinburgh University Press, 2015). Frances judged the Man Booker Prize in 2010 and is a regular contributor to the TLS.

Postgraduate Study

PhDs completed

Peter Daniels,  My Tin Watermelon (poetry collection) and Grecian Urns and Tin Watermelons: Lyric, Truth and Beauty, with reference to Mark Doty, and comparisons with Philip Larkin (commentary) (2021)

William Parker (co-supervisor with Courtauld Institute, University of London),Laurence Binyon and the Influence of Paterian Aestheticism, 1873-1915 (2020)

Rachel White, All This Is For You (novel) and The Use of Observational Omniscient Narration in Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road (commentary) (2019)

Jessica Gossling,'Decadent Threshold Poetics: A Comparative Study of Threshold Space in Charles Baudelaire, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Ernest Dowson, and Arthur Symons' (2018)

Alice Condé, 'Writing Masochism and the Cruel Woman in English Decadence, 1860-1900' (2015)

Brittain Bright, 'Beyond the Scene of the Crime: Investigating Place in Golden Age Detective Fiction' (2015)

Cheryl Deedman, '"The Song of the Pen": Popular Romantic Literature 1839-1889' (2014)

Selina Packard, 'Fictional Rewritings of Mary Shelley's LIfe (2003)

Lawrence Alfred Phillips, 'The negotiation of colonial identities in the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London' (2002)

Catherine Spooner, '"A terror of her Robes": Fashioning Gothic Bodies' (2002)

Cecile Malet-Dagreou, 'Evil in Gothic Fiction, 1764-1820' (1999)


PhDs under supervision

  • Queering the Decadent Fairy Tale: Decadent Sexuality and the Fin-de-Siècle Fairy Tales of Renée Vivien, Olive Custance and Althea Gyles 1880-1910
  • Gender and Androgyny in Charlotte Bronte's Fiction



Conferences and seminars


Affiliations, networks, and peer review (in alphabetical order by surname)

  • Jane Desmarais is Editor-in-Chief of Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies

  • Jane Desmarais is Chair of the British Association of Decadence Studies (BADS)

  • Jane Desmarais is peer reviewer for 19 and Victorian Studies

  • Jane Desmarais is a core member of the AHRC-funded Decadence and Translation Network

  • Jane Desmarais is a member of the editorial board of the 'InCarnations' book series on European fin de siècle and Decadence to be published by ETS (Pisa)
  • Jane Desmarais is a member of the Courtauld Art Writing Research Group
  • Jane Desmarais and Isobel Hurst are members of the London Nineteenth-Century Studies Seminar, at the Institute of English Studies
  • Isobel Hurst and Michael Simpson have served on the Advisory Board of the recently concluded AHRC-sponsored research project, ‘Classics and Class in Britain 1789-1939’, led by Professor Edith Hall, at King’s College, London
  • Uttara Natarajan is Editor of The Hazlitt Review
  • Uttara Natarajan is a founder-member of the Committee of the Hazlitt Society
  • Uttara Natarajan is peer reviewer for Keats-Shelley Journal, Review of English Studies, Romanticism, Studies in Romanticism, Victorian Studies, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Philological Quarterly, and Archiv
  • Michael Simpson is a member of the Editorial Board of The Hazlitt Review and of the Executive Committee of the Classical Reception Studies Network
  • Frances Wilson is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature