English poetry research group

The University of Birmingham has an eminent international reputation in the study of poetry in English from the medieval period to the present day.

The colleagues who make up this research group include prestigious scholars of the history and theory of poetry, celebrated published poets, linguists working in innovative ways with contemporary poetry, and the creators of ground-breaking new popular and scholarly editions of poetry. This group encompasses not only a broad cross-historical sweep, but also a wide variety of approaches and methodologies that focus on everything from the linguistic and stylistic qualities of poetry, to the internal workings of the genre and its sub-genres (satire, the prose-poem, the lyric), while also studying its interconnections with other art forms (art, music, the novel for example), with much broader cultural contexts (history, race, psychoanalysis, gender, geography, for example). This rich and lively research culture is generating a diverse range of projects, many of which are detailed below.

We have a thriving postgraduate community in this area and welcome applications for study in any of the above areas, or in relation to a combination of these areas.

The faculty and postgraduate members of the group meet for a jointly organised annual symposium. We welcome new members with an interest in any aspect of poetry in English.

The following list of academic members is arranged according to the chronology of their research areas to demonstrate the scope of our interests. Click on the name at the start of the brief blurb to go through to more detailed individual web pages.

Philippa Semper works on and teaches all aspects of poetry in Old English, but is particularly interested in the complex textual games these poems play and the relationship between what is seen by the reader and heard by the listener. She is currently writing a book on Old English poetry (Continuum 2010).

Wendy Scase has published extensively on satirical and polemical poetry of the medieval and early modern periods. Her current interests include the ways in which education and training in rhetoric and composition inform early poetry. Forthcoming work includes her essay ‘Late Fourteenth-Century Poetry (Chaucer, Langland, Gower, and their Legacy)’, in The Cambridge History of English Poetry, ed. by M.S.C. O’Neill (Cambridge University Press), pp. 81-110.

David Griffith writes about vernacularity and the materiality of texts in the period between the Conquest and the Tudor Reformations. He is currently working on projects to record, catalogue and interpret the corpus of verse and prose in the vernacular languages that appear in inscriptional form in secular and religious buildings.

Hugh Adlington’s interests include: poetry and poetics, 1500-1800; genre relations, textual transmission, and the historical contexts for the poetry of this period; textual editing, computational stylistics. Authors in whose work he is especially interested include John Donne, George Herbert, Henry King, Thomas Carew, Henry Vaughan, Katherine Philips, John Milton, Andrew Marvell.

Gillian Wright’s principal research interest is women’s poetry from the period 1500-1700. She co-edited Early Modern Women’s Manuscript Poetry (Manchester, 2005), and is currently preparing a monograph on women and poetic compilation. She has also published on the poet-historian Samuel Daniel and on the production and reception of poetry in translation.

Valerie Rumbold is particularly interested in the poetry of Alexander Pope, of whose Dunciads she has produced major new editions (The Dunciad in Four Books for Longman Annotated Texts, 1999; The Dunciads of 1728 and 1729 for The Poems of Alexander Pope, Longman Annotated English Poets, 2008). She has published widely on Pope and on women poets of the eighteenth century. In 2010 she will be giving the Warton Lecture on English Poetry at the British Academy.

Tom Lockwood writes about poetry from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, with particular interest in poets whose work first circulated in manuscript and in allusion. He has published on Donne, Jonson and Milton; on minor (and indeed sometimes anonymous) poets of the same period; and on first-generation Romantic poets, among them Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Steve Ellis has published three collections of poetry and a verse translation of Dante’s Inferno, as well as monographs and articles on various poets. His particular interest is in 19th- and 20th-century poetry, especially that of Wordsworth, Yeats and Eliot.

Dave Gunning has interests across twentieth- and twenty-first-century Anglophone postcolonial poetries, particularly those of Australia, the Caribbean, India and Ireland. He has written essays for the Dictionary of Literary Biography on Caribbean poets John Agard and James Berry, and published articles on Bernardine Evaristo and Daljit Nagra.

Michael Toolan uses stylistics and linguistics in the analysis of (mainly 20th century) poetry in English.

Luke Kennard is an award-winning poet and critic whose third collection 'The Migraine Hotel' was highly commended in the 2009 Forward Prizes. His research interests include the prose poem, poetry publishing and transatlantic influences in contemporary poetry.

Past events

April 2010 - Poetic Hauntings - a cross-historical English poetry symposium

October 2011 - Art and Literature responses at the Barber Institute