Professor Alexandra Harris

Professor Alexandra Harris

Department of English Literature
Birmingham Professorial Fellow

I enjoy thinking and writing about British art and literature of all periods, especially in relation to landscape, locality and the presence of the past. I am the author of ‘Romantic Moderns’ and ‘Weatherland: Writers and Artists under English Skies’, and my current projects include work on Virginia Woolf; seasonal ceremony and the marking of time; antiquarianism and local history; modern readings of literature from the eighteenth century and before. 


  • DPhil University of Oxford
  • MA Courtauld Institute of Art
  • BA University of Oxford


I studied English at Oxford, European art at the Courtauld Institute, and then (after a very happy time in the drawings department at Christie’s) I wrote my doctoral thesis at Oxford on modernism and tradition in the 1930s and 40s. I began my academic career as a lecturer at the University of Liverpool in 2007 and was promoted to a personal chair in 2015. I came to Birmingham in 2017 to take up a Professorial Fellowship in English.


I am currently on Leverhulme-funded research leave but I contribute lectures and seminars to modules at UG and MA level, especially on modernist subjects.

Postgraduate supervision

I am interested in work on place and locality; literature in relation to art, architecture and landscape; seasonality and ceremony; literary inheritance across time; twentieth-century British art and literature. 


Much of my research has been focussed on Modernism, especially the work of Virginia Woolf, but I have written about literature from the tenth century to the present and am always interested in forms of continuity and revision across time.

Other activities

I review books in the national press and present programmes on arts subjects for BBC Radio 3 and 4.

As a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature I was a judge for the 2017 Ondaatje Prize and am currently on the panel selecting 40 new RSL Fellows under the age of 40. 



  • Weatherland: Writers and Artists under English Skies, Thames & Hudson, 2015, paperback 2016.
  • Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination, from Virginia Woolf to John Piper, Thames & Hudson, 2010; paperback 2015.
  • Virginia Woolf, Thames & Hudson, 2011; paperback 2012.

Edited book

  • Modernism on Sea: Art and Culture at the British Seaside, edited with Lara Feigel, Peter Lang, 2009; paperback 2011; reissue 2016 (83,000 words).

Exhibition catalogue essays

  • ‘Tacita Dean: Observances’, catalogue essay for the exhibition Tacita Dean, Royal Academy of Arts, forthcoming 2018.
  • ‘Kenneth Rowntree: A Strange Simplicity’, in Kenneth Rowntree: A Centenary Exhibition, ed. by Paul Liss and Harry Moore-Gwyn, pp. 9-18, Liss Llewelyn Fine Art, accompanying exhibitions at the Fry Art Gallery and Pallant House Gallery, 2015. 
  • ‘We Are Making a New World: Art Youth and War’, in A Crisis of Brilliance, exhibition catalogue ed. by David Boyd Haycock, Dulwich Picture Gallery, 2013.
  • ‘Edward McKnight Kauffer’, main catalogue text for the exhibition Poster King, Estorick Collection, London, 2011, pp. 6-26. 
  • ‘Sutherland’s Metamorphoses’, in Graham Sutherland: An Unfinished World, Modern Art Oxford, 2011, pp. 25-9.
  • ‘Romantic Topography’, main catalogue essay for the exhibition John Piper in Kent and Sussex, Mascalls Gallery and the Towner Art Gallery Eastbourne, 2011, pp. 6-17.

Other essays and book contributions (selected)

  • I write for the Guardian, Financial Times, Telegraph and a range of magazines. Please see my website for recent listings.
  • ‘Time and Place: The Art of Calendars’, in Artists’ Calendars, Little Toller, forthcoming 2018.
  •  ‘The Marsh and the Visitor’, in Common Ground, ed. Tim Dee, Jonathan Cape, forthcoming March 2018.
  • Introduction to In Pursuit of Spring by Edward Thomas, Little Toller Nature Classics, 2016.
  • Woolf in Winter, The 16th Virginia Woolf Birthday Lecture, published as a standalone booklet by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, 2015.
  • ‘Wandering with Clouds: Literary Weather from Milton to Wordsworth’ in Where We Fell to Earth: Essays for Peter Conrad, Christ Church, 2011, pp. 322-336. 
  • ‘Virginia Woolf Underground’, in Woolf and the City (Papers from the 19th Annual Woolf Conference, New York, 2009), ed. by Elizabeth Evans and Sarah Cornish, Clemson University Digital Press, 2010, pp. 40-46. 
  • ‘The Antimacassar Restored: Victorian Taste in the 1920s and 30s’, in Strange Sisters, ed. Francesca Orestano and Francesca Frigerio, Peter Lang, 2009, 255-271.
  • ‘Seaside Ceremonies: Coastal Rites in Twentieth-Century Art’ in Modernism on Sea, ed. Lara Feigel and Alexandra Harris, Peter Lang, 2009, pp. 227-244.
  • ‘Common Readers in Wartime’, Virginia Woolf Bulletin, no. 31, April 2009, pp. 10-16. Winner of the Julia Briggs Memorial Prize.
  • ‘Almost Fashionable Again: John Sell Cotman in the Twentieth Century’, in From Self to Shelf, ed. Sally Bayley and William May, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007, pp. 121-131. 

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