Dr Oliver Herford BA, MSt (Oxford), PhD (London)

Dr Oliver Herford

Department of English Literature
Birmingham Fellow

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I work on British and American literature of the long nineteenth century, with a special focus on the late writings of Henry James. I am interested in the place of style in literary non-fiction, the practice of editing, and the relations between personal correspondence and other types of life-writing (autobiography, biography, and memoir). I teach widely across eighteenth-, nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature.


BA, MSt (Oxford), PhD (London)


I joined the University of Birmingham in 2014 after five years’ teaching in Oxford colleges, including three years as Darby Fellow and Tutor in English at Lincoln College. I took my BA and MSt at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and completed my doctoral studies at University College London.


I currently convene a third-year option module on nineteenth-century historical fiction, and lecture on various first- and second-year modules. I contribute to the MA core module Literature and Aesthetics in the Long Nineteenth Century.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome enquiries about research supervision in the following areas: Henry James, John Keats and his circle, life-writing from the Romantic period to the early twentieth century, literary editing, revision and textual history, collective editions, and the letters of nineteenth-century authors.


My monograph Henry James’s Style of Retrospect: Late Personal Writings, 1890-1915 will be published by Oxford University Press in 2016. The book examines the changes James’s style underwent in the last twenty-five years of his writing life, as his focus gradually turned from the fictional observation of contemporary manners to biographical commemoration and autobiographical reminiscence. Closely analysing James’s style across a remarkable sequence of non-fictional works – the ‘late personal writings’ of my title: commemorative essays and obituary tributes, textual revisions and accounts of revisiting familiar places, cultural and literary criticism, biography and autobiography, and family memoir – I offer a revisionist account of the way style itself challenges and preoccupies the very late James. I am currently editing James’s Prefaces to the New York Edition for The Complete Fiction of Henry James (Cambridge University Press). I am also beginning to explore directions for future research on the writing, circulation, and publication of literary correspondence, and on the historical novel from Walter Scott to Robert Louis Stevenson.

Other activities

I am co-organizing an international conference at the Eccles Centre for American Studies in the British Library on 14-16 April 2016, as part of a programme of events to mark the centenary of Henry James’s death. I review academic titles for the Times Literary Supplement.



  • Henry James’s Style of Retrospect: Late Personal Writings, 1890-1915 (Oxford University Press, forthcoming February 2016)


  • The Prefaces, vol. 33 of The Complete Fiction of Henry James (Cambridge University Press, under contract)

Articles and reviews

  • Review of John Keats, Selected Letters, ed. John Barnard (London: Penguin, 2014), Times Literary Supplement, forthcoming 2015
  • ‘John Keats by Joseph Severn: On Likeness and Life-Writing’, The Cambridge Quarterly, 42 (2013), 318-41
  • ‘Commencement or Commemoration’, Literary Imagination, 15 (2013), 20-34
  • Essay-review of The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1872-1876, 3 vols. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008-11), The Henry James Review, 33 (2012), 285-92
  • ‘James and the Habit of Allusion’, in Henry James’s Europe: Heritage and Transfer, ed. Annick Duperray et al (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2011), 179-89
  • ‘The Roman Lotus: Digestion and Retrospect’, The Henry James Review, 31 (2010), 54-60