Dr Eleanor Dobson BA, MA, PhD, FHEA

Photograph of Dr Eleanor Dobson

Department of English Literature
Lecturer 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 convene ‘Prose’ – one of the core first-year modules in English – and ‘Neo-Victorianism’ – a specialist third-year module. I lecture on these courses, and across a range of second-year modules, including ‘Gothic’, ‘Gender and Sexuality’, ‘Decadence & the Fin de Siècle’, and ‘Victorian Literature’. 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.


My first monograph (currently under consideration for publication) 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 project 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, Sigmund Freud, H. P. Lovecraft, 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.

I am also interested in science of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly when it is seen to intersect with contemporary ideas about the supernatural or occult. I have published 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. I am currently researching other scientific areas in which these parallels can be traced: in psychology, and in the development of photographic technologies.

I have recently published on supernatural fiction set in Egyptian hotels, the intersection between the fairy-tale genre and mummy fiction in the late nineteenth century, and fictional representations of the ghost of Oscar Wilde. Forthcoming publications address the imagery of jewels and precious materials in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as well as photographic technologies, spiritualism and psychical research in Oscar Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Other activities

With Dr Jimmy Packham I am Admissions Tutor for undergraduate admissions in English. I am also a member of the University of Birmingham’s Nineteenth-Century Centre and the Centre for Literary Editing and the Materiality of the Text.


Edited books

  • Silver Bullets: Classic Werewolf Stories (London: British Library, 2017) 

Chapters in books

  • ‘The Sphinx at the Séance: Literature, Spiritualism and Psycho-Archaeology’, in Excavating Modernity: Physical, Temporal and Psychological Stratification in Literature, 1900-1930, ed. by Eleanor Dobson and Gemma Banks (London: Routledge, 2018), pp. 83-102
  • ‘A Tomb with a View: Supernatural Experiences in the Late Nineteenth Century’s Egyptian Hotels’, in Anglo-American Travelers and the Hotel Experience in Nineteenth Century Literature: Nation, Hospitality, Travel Writing, ed. by Monika Elbert and Susanne Schmid (London: Routledge, 2018), pp. 89-105
  • ‘The Ghost of Oscar Wilde: Fictional Representations’, in Ghosts – or the (Nearly) Invisible: Spectral Phenomena in Literature and the Media, ed. by Maria Fleischhack and Elmar Schenkel (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2016), pp. 35-44


  • ‘Ruby Lips and Whitby Jet: Dracula’s Language of Jewels’, Gothic Studies, 20.1-2 (2018), 124-39
  • ‘Emasculating Mummies: Gender and Psychological Threat in Fin-de-Siècle Mummy Fiction’, Nineteenth-Century Contexts: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 40.4 (2018)
  • ‘Gods and Ghost-Light: Ancient Egypt, Electricity, and X-Rays’, Victorian Literature and Culture, 45.1 (2017), 119-35
  • ‘Sleeping Beauties: Mummies and the Fairy-Tale Genre at the Fin de Siècle’, Journal of International Women’s Studies, 18.3 (2017), 19-34

Edited collections

  • Excavating Modernity: Physical, Temporal and Psychological Stratification in Literature, 1900-1930 (Routledge: 2018) (co-edited with Gemma Banks) (in press)

Journal special issues

  • ‘Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Culture’, Nineteenth-Century Contexts: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 40.4 (2018) (co-edited with Nichola Tonks)
  • ‘Scrutinizing Beauty’, MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities, 12 (2018) (co-edited with Daisy Gudmunsen)
  • ‘Rewriting(s)’, MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities, 11 (2017) (co-edited with Lucy Russell)
  • ‘Strata: Geology, Archaeology and Psychology in Victorian and Edwardian Literature’, Victoriographies, 7.3 (2017) (co-edited with Gemma Banks)


  • ‘Shawn Malley, From Archaeology to Spectacle in Victorian Britain: The Case of Assyria, 1845-1854, The British Society for Literature and Science (2016), <http://www.bsls.ac.uk/reviews/romantic-and-victorian/shawn-malley-from-archaeology-to-spectacle-in-victorian-britain-the-case-of-assyria-1845-1854/>
  • ‘Lee Scrivner, Becoming Insomniac: How Sleeplessness Alarmed Modernity (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)’, Cultural History, 4.2 (2015), 217-19