My research concentrates mainly on the relationship between science and literature and other cultural forms in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From 2006 to 2008 I held a Leverhulme Research Fellowship on Darwinism, Poetry and Poetics. The research I did for this project came out as Darwin’s Bards: British and American Poetry in the Age of Evolution (2009), in which I examined how poetry can inform and shape our responses to and understanding of the Darwinian condition. I followed this up with a number of articles on Victorian poetry and science, an edited collection of essays on twentieth-century poetry and science, and a collaboration with the Royal Society supervising a PhD on the role of the Royal Society within Victorian literary culture. I am currently co-editing The Ashgate Research Companion to Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Science with Professor Sharon Ruston at Lancaster University. I have also written a book on the sonnet sequence in the nineteenth century, and a number of articles on the sonnet and the epic in this period. I have recently been working on a number of discrete studies of epic and evolution in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, from Erasmus Darwin to Ezra Pound, which I intend to bring together as a monograph.
The other major strand of my research on science and culture stems from an AHRC Fellowship I held from 2012 to 2013 to work on the Pre-Raphaelites and science. For this project, I examined their paintings, sculpture and poetry in the light of their art criticism, which repeatedly invokes science as a model for the arts. I also researched the shaping influence of Pre-Raphaelitism on Victorian science itself, particularly through natural history museum architecture and periodical culture. I have written a monograph based on this research which is currently under consideration with Yale University Press. This project involved collaboration with the Natural History Museum, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the Manchester Museum and the Manchester Art Gallery. I am now pursuing further collaborative research projects on nineteenth-century natural history museums involving these partners and others. These include a project on British, Irish and Canadian museums funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) entitled ‘Building the Book of Nature: The Poetics of the Natural History Museum’ in collaboration with Professor Janine Rogers at Mount Allison University.
Both in my research on poetry and in my work on museums, I aim to engage scientists and those interested in science as well as literary scholars. Through these kinds of cross-disciplinary engagements it is possible to build up a much richer understanding of the significance of scientific practices and discoveries, and a fuller sense too of how the arts can engage constructively with science.