Dr Eleanor Dobson BA, MA, PhD, FHEA

Photograph of Dr Eleanor Dobson

Department of English Literature
Associate Professor in Nineteenth-Century Literature

Contact details

Department of English Literature
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My current work focuses on the reception of ancient Egypt in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. More broadly, I am interested in the materiality and history of the book, as well as notions of the supernatural and the occult, particularly as these ideas operate at the edges of a range of scientific discourses. I teach literature from the late eighteenth century to the present, with particular focus on the Gothic genre, the natural world, gender and sexuality. 


  • Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy
  • PhD (English; University of Birmingham)
  • MA by Research (English; University of Birmingham)
  • BA (Hons) (English; University of Birmingham)


I joined the University of Birmingham as Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature in September 2017, having previously been employed as a Visiting Lecturer and Teaching Associate (since 2013). I completed my PhD, MA, and BA at Birmingham. 


I lecture and teach across a range of undergraduate modules, including ‘Gothic’, ‘Decadents & Moderns’, and ‘Shakespeare’s Sisters’. I am also involved in workshops for our MA students taking the Long Nineteenth Century pathway.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome applications for doctoral projects on the reception of ancient Egypt from 1800 to the present day; on authors including Bram Stoker, H. Rider Haggard, Marie Corelli, and Oscar Wilde; and on nineteenth-century Gothic literature, in particular that which addresses intersections between science, magic, and antiquity.

Find out more - our PhD English Literature  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My first monograph, Writing the Sphinx (Edinburgh University Press, 2020), examines the mutual influences of Egyptology and literary culture across the closing decades of the nineteenth century and the opening decades of the twentieth, in the wake of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. In this book I conceive of a culture that at once encompasses Egyptological writing, popular forms of fiction, as well as works of ‘high modernism’, from the writings of archaeologists such as Howard Carter, through to the fiction and poetry of figures as diverse as H. Rider Haggard, Marie Corelli, Oscar Wilde and H.D. It also brings into conversation the physical books published by authors and Egyptologists alike, establishing the complex relationships between these objects as products of Egyptological study and the objects of Egyptological study themselves: artefacts often housed in museums, and sometimes in the private collections of these very authors.

My second book, entitled Victorian Alchemy: Science, Magic and Ancient Egypt (UCL Press, 2022), focuses on science of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly when it is seen to intersect with contemporary ideas about the supernatural or occult. It integrates and builds on my previous work on the intersection between electromagnetic radiation and texts with ancient Egyptian subject matter, establishing the quasi-alchemical ways in which depictions of electrical phenomena and X-rays are presented as emblematic of magical lore of the ancients, and, simultaneously, the pinnacle of modern scientific understanding. The book's other chapters trace similar parallels in optical science, astronomy, and psychology, and Victorian Alchemy concludes by charting these tropes forward into modern media, spotlighting particular nineteenth-century legacies.

I have published widely on complementary subjects from the nineteenth century to the present: on supernatural fiction set in Egyptian hotels; ancient Egypt in Alan Moore's From Hell and as 'hieroglyphic' presence in London fictionsthe intersection between the fairy-tale genre and mummy fiction in the late nineteenth century, and ancient Egypt and nineteenth-century consumer culture; Egyptology and cross-dressing; fictional representations of the ghost of Oscar Wildehysteria and the mummy at the fin de siècle and ancient Egyptian presences in the spiritualist séance; the imagery of jewels and precious materials in Bram Stoker’s Dracula; and photographic technologies, spiritualism and psychical research in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Other activities

With Dr Andrew Hodgson, I am Undergraduate Admissions Tutor for English Literature. I am a member of the University of Birmingham’s Nineteenth-Century CentreCentre for Modernist Cultures, and the Centre for Literary Editing and the Materiality of the Text.


Recent publications


Dobson, E & Tonks, N 2020, Ancient Egypt in the Modern Imagination: Art, Literature and Culture . 1 edn, Bloomsbury Academic. <https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/ancient-egypt-in-the-modern-imagination-9781788313391/>

Dobson, E (ed.) 2020, Victorian Literary Culture and Ancient Egypt. Manchester University Press. <https://manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9781526141880/>

Dobson, E 2020, Writing the Sphinx: Literature, Culture and Egyptology. Edinburgh Critical Studies in Victorian Culture, Edinburgh University Press. <https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-writing-the-sphinx-hb.html>


Dobson, E 2020, 'Oscar Wilde, photography, and cultures of spiritualism: ''The most magical of mirrors''', English Literature in Transition 1880-1920, vol. 63, no. 2, pp. 139-161. <https://muse.jhu.edu/article/743939/summary>


Dobson, E 2024, Ancient Egypt. in S Parker (ed.), Michael Field in Context. Cambridge University Press.

Dobson, E 2024, The Illustrated Mummy: Visualising Beauty and Monstrosity at the Fin de Siècle. in N Reggiani (ed.), Miraggi d'eternità: le mummie egizie dal tempo dei papiri ad oggi. 1 edn, Artegrafica Silva, Parma.

Dobson, E 2024, “Lord Carnarvon was warned”: Tutankhamun in Spiritualist and Occult Periodicals. in J Day & M Mosleth King (eds), The Cult of Tutankhamun. The American University in Cairo Press.

Dobson, E 2023, De Gizeh à Vénus: temps, espace et Égypte antique dans la fiction au tournant du XXe siècle. in M Piperno, B Van Den Bossche & C Zampieri (eds), The Tales of Archaeology: Towards a Literary ‘Memory Map’ of the Mediterranean Space. Peeters.

Dobson, E 2023, Stephen Sommers' The Mummy (1999): Modern Legacies of the Tutankhamun Excavations. in AI Fernández Pichel (ed.), How Pharaohs Became Media Stars: Ancient Egypt and Popular Culture. Archaeopress Egyptology, vol. 48, Archaeopress, pp. 88-109. https://doi.org/10.32028/9781803276267

Dobson, E 2022, Nineteenth-Century Mummy Fiction. in B Hinson & A Ferrari (eds), Visions of Ancient Egypt. The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

Dobson, E 2022, Sphinxes of Mars: science, fiction, and nineteenth-century ancient aliens. in B van den Bercken (ed.), Alternative Egyptology: Critical essays on the relation between academic and alternative interpretations of ancient Egypt. Sidestone Press.

Dobson, E 2020, Deciphering the City: Ancient Egypt in Victorian London and Psychogeographical Archaeology. in J Gill, E Lightfoot & C McKenzie (eds), Writing Remains: New Intersections of Archaeology and Literature. Bloomsbury Academic.

Dobson, E 2020, Jack the Ripper and the Mummy's Curse: Ancient Egypt in From Hell. in Ancient Egypt in the Modern Imagination: Art, Literature and Culture. Bloomsbury Academic.

Dobson, E 2020, Perfume, Cigarettes and Gilded Boards: Pharos the Egyptian and Consumer Culture. in E Dobson (ed.), Victorian Literary Culture and Ancient Egypt. Manchester University Press.


Dobson, E & Tonks, N 2020, Introduction. in Ancient Egypt in the Modern Imagination: Art, Literature and Culture. Bloomsbury Academic.

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