My research is in Romantic and Victorian literature, with a concentration on prose non-fiction. I have a particular expertise in the work of the early nineteenth-century essayist, William Hazlitt, and more broadly, in the essay genre. My current research project is a monograph on the impact of the Romantic essay on the development of realism in the early and mid-Victorian eras. I have published widely on Hazlitt and other major Romantic and Victorian writers, including Keats, Lamb, Shelley, Dickens, Ruskin, and Pater. A concern with the ethical standing of the English literature of the nineteenth century, for its contemporaries and for us today, underpins my research throughout. Outside of nineteenth-century literature, I also have an interest, sustained by my own personal and political history, in south Indian culture and caste politics.
- DPhil, University of Oxford 1995
- MPhil in English Romantic Studies, University of Oxford 1991
- BA (Hons) in English, University of Cambridge 1988
- BSc in Mathematics, University of Madras, India 1986
Teaching and Supervision
My first monograph, Hazlitt and the Reach of Sense (OUP, 1998), was on the critic and essayist, William Hazlitt (1778-1830). Engaging the range of Hazlitt’s writings, including art and literary criticism, political journalism, and conversational essays, my monograph uncovered the shared philosophical basis of his aesthetics, politics, and ethics. Subsequent publications on Hazlitt have focused on his Shakespeare criticism, and on his influence on the younger generation of Romantic writers, such as Keats and Shelley. My survey of Romantic-era scholarship, The Romantic Poets (Blackwell, 2007), was published in the Blackwell Guides to Criticism series. In the last decade, my research has extended into the Victorian era. I have published extensively on the non-fiction prose of the era, by writers such as Ruskin, Pater, and Dickens, attending especially to the way in which its debts to, and divergences from, certain key Romantic forebears have shaped its characteristic ethical emphases. I am developing this research into a monograph that tracks the ‘familiar style’ of the Romantic essayists to the realist practice of their Victorian successors, showing as it does so the centrality of the Romantic essay to the evolution of nineteenth-century realism. Outside of the mainstream of my research, I have published a scholarly edition, Plain Speaking (Permanent Black, 2007), of the memoirs and lectures of A.N. Sattanathan (1905-1990), architect of India’s first affirmative action policy, towards the lower castes in the state of Tamil Nadu. Current doctoral supervision includes research on Charlotte Brontë’s fiction and on the impact of nineteenth-century English literary models on the development of Tamil prose in the early decades of the twentieth century. I welcome research supervision across the Romantic and Victorian eras.
Further profile content
Hazlitt and the Reach of Sense: Criticism, Morals, and the Metaphysics of Power
Plain Speaking: A Sudra's Story
'Hazlitt and Shakespeare'
‘Ruskin on Imagination: A Via Negativa’
'Charles Dickens's Realism and the Romantic Essayists'
I am a member of the Founding Committee of the Hazlitt Society, which came into being in the aftermath of the restoration of Hazlitt’s memorial stone by public subscription in St. Anne’s Church, Soho. With Gregory Dart at UCL, I organize the annual lecture of the Society and the annual Hazlitt Day School. I am Editor-in Chief of The Hazlitt Review, currently the pre-eminent forum for the publication of new research on Hazlitt.
Goldsmiths Research Centres/Groups
Grants and awards
2021: AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award: Tamil Modernity and English Prose