Dr Sebastian Mitchell BA PhD PG.Cert.LTHE

Photograph of Dr Sebastian Mitchell

Department of English Literature
Senior Lecturer in English Literature

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My research work focuses on eighteenth-century and Romantic literature and culture, and utopian writing. I am especially interested in the relationship between literary and visual culture. My latest book, Utopia and Its Discontents: Plato to Atwood, was published by Bloomsbury Press in February 2020, and I’m currently at work on a study for Edinburgh University Press with the provisional title, Scottish Literature and Art in the Romantic Age.


  • BA (Hons) English and European Literature, Class: First, University of Essex
  • PhD Thesis title: Island of Bliss Amid the Subject Seas: Anglo-Scottish Conceptions of Britain in the Eighteenth Century, University of Southampton
  • Post-Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, University of Birmingham


I have a BA (English and European Literature) from the University of Essex, a PhD from the University of Southampton (Literature), and a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education from the University of Birmingham. Before coming to the university, I taught at the University of Southampton and the Open University. I joined the English department in 2007.


I have convened and taught a wide range of modules in the department. My current third-year/MA specialist module is Plato to the Postmodern: Theories of Literature and Art. This is a trans-historical, which traces the development of literary and aesthetics from the classical period to the end of the twentieth century. Past and current modules include the following:

  • Writing Revolutions, 1680–1830 (MA)
  • Plato to the Postmodern: Theories of Literature and Art (Level H)
  • Utopia and its Discontents (level H)
  • Epic Ambitions (level I)
  • Poetry (level C)
  • From Romanticism to Modernism: English Literature 1800–1930 (level I/H)
  • Literature and the Asylum (level I/H)
  • Introduction to Literature (level C)
  • Literature of Selfhood: explorations of identity in narrative fiction from the eighteenth century to the twentieth century (level C)
  • Literature in the Metropolis (urban fiction from London and New York) (level C)
  • The Scottish Enlightenment: An Introduction (day schools)

Postgraduate supervision

I supervise PhD students on a range of literary and cross-disciplinary subjects, some with AHRC M4C funding. I have recent postgraduate research projects completed on confessional writing in the Romantic age, a trans-historical study of the literary reception of Samuel Johnson, and an examination of Gaelic, Latin and English Jacobite writing in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. I have ongoing projects on scriptural allusion in the novels of Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding, and on the Gothic seascape. Projects commencing include studies of influence of classical philosophy on Romantic poetry, and Anglo-Scottish verse in the Romantic period.

I welcome applications for post-graduate research supervision in the following areas:

Eighteenth-century and Romantic period literature and culture
Eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century Scottish literature and culture
Utopian and Dystopian literature
History of Aesthetics

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


My main research areas are the relationship of literature and art in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and utopian and anti-utopian writing. My monograph on the first of these topics, Visions of Britain, 1730–1830: Anglo-Scottish Writing and Representation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) was short-listed for the Saltire Society award for Research Book of the Year 2013, and nominated for the James Russell Lowell Prize, MLA, 2014.

My trans-historical study of literary utopianism and anti-utopianism, Utopia and its Discontents: Plato to Atwood was published by Bloomsbury Press in February 2020. The book has been praised for being ‘penetrating’ and ‘lucid’, and for its original and revelatory exploration of the formal and generic aesthetics of literary utopias.

I’ve also written extensively on Ossian, the supposed ancient Gaelic epic poems translated by James Macpherson in the 1760s. I’ve variously discussed the poetry, and its reception through to the modern era (including its influence on visual culture). I guest edited a special edition of The Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, entitled Ossian in the Twenty First Century (2016).

I’m currently working on a study of Scottish literature and visual culture in the nineteenth century for Edinburgh University Press. The book’s provisional title is Scottish Literature and Art in the Romantic Age.

Other activities

I have held a range of administrative and academic-management roles in the department and the school. Since 2016, I have been external examiner of undergraduate programmes in the Department of English at the University of Exeter.


Recent publications


Mitchell, S 2020, Utopia and Its Discontents: Plato to Atwood . Bloomsbury Academic, London and New York.

Mitchell, J 2013, Visions of Britain,1730-1830: Anglo-Scottish Writing and Representation. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke and New York.


Mitchell, S 2016, 'Ossian: Past Present and Future', Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 39, no. 2.

Mitchell, S 2013, 'Celtic Postmodernism: Ossian and Contemporary Art', Translation and Literature, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 401-435. https://doi.org/10.3366/tal.2013.0130

Mitchell, J 2011, 'James Thomson's Picture Collection and British History Painting', Journal of the History of Collections, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 127-151. https://doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhq017

Mitchell, J 2008, 'Ossian and Ossianic Parallelism in James Barry's Works', Eighteenth-Century Ireland, vol. 23, pp. 94-120.

Mitchell, J 2007, 'Dark Interpreter: Literary Uses of the Brocken Spectre from Coleridge to Pynchon', The Dalhousie Review, vol. 87, no. 2, pp. 167-187.

Mitchell, J 2006, 'James Thomson's The Castle of Indolence and the Allegory of Selfhood', The Cambridge Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 327-344. https://doi.org/10.1093/camqtly/bfl019


Mitchell, S 2019, In the margins: children and graphic satire in the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. in A O'Malley (ed.), Literary Cultures and Eighteenth-Century Childhoods. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 229-259. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-94737-2_12

Mitchell, S 2019, Ossian and Orality: The Sound of Ossian. in G Bär & H Gaskill (eds), Oral Literature, Ossian and Translation. Studies in Cultural Sciences, Peter Lang AG, Frankfurt am Main.

Mitchell, S 2017, Landscape and the Sense of Place in the Poems of Ossian. in D Moore (ed.), The International Companion to James Macpherson and the Poems of Ossian. Association for Scottish Literary Studies, Edinburgh, pp. 65-75.

Mitchell, J 2012, Macpherson, Ossian, and Homer's Iliad. in G Bär & H Gaskill (eds), Ossian and National Epic. Peter Lang, Frankfurt, pp. 55-72.

Book/Film/Article review

Mitchell, J 2017, 'Essential Scots and the Idea of Unionism in Anglo-Scottish Literature, 1603–1832 by Rivka Swenson (review)', Eighteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 141-143. <https://muse.jhu.edu/article/671530>

Mitchell, S 2017, 'JOE BRAY. The Portrait in Fiction of the Romantic Period. Pp. vii1196. London and New York: Routledge, 2016. Hardback, £95.', The Review of English Studies. https://doi.org/10.1093/res/hgx036

Entry for encyclopedia/dictionary

Mitchell, S 2013, James Thomson (1700-1748). in G Day & J Lynch (eds), The Encyclopedia of British Literature: 1660-1789. Blackwell-Wiley, Oxford.

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