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.



  • Utopia and its Discontents: Plato to the Postmodern (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2020)
  • Visions of Britain, 1730–1830: Anglo-Scottish Writing and Representation (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) 

Selected chapters in books and edited collections

  • ‘Ossian and Orality’, in The Epic and Oral Culture, ed. by Gerald Bär (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2020)
  • ‘In the Margins: Children and Satirical Prints in the Eighteenth Century and the Early Nineteenth Century’, in Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century and the Child, ed. by Andrew O’Malley (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)
  • ‘Landscape and the Sense of Place in the Poems of Ossian’, in The International Companion to James Macpherson and the Poems of Ossian, ed. by Dafydd Moore, (Glasgow: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2017)
  • Macpherson, Ossian, and Homer’s Iliad, in Ossian and the National Epics, ed. by Gerald Bär and Howard Gaskill (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2012), pp. 55–72
  • Dombey and Son: Families and Commerce’ in The Nineteenth-Century Novel, ed. by Delia Da Sousa Correa (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 136–58
  • ‘Dombey and Son: Industry and Empire’ in The Nineteenth-Century Novel ed. by Delia da Sousa Correa (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 159–85 

Selected articles and issues

  • ‘Ossian on the Georgian Stage’ (in preparation)
  • Ossian in the Twenty-First Century, special issue of the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 39 (2016)
  • Celtic Postmodernism: Ossian and Contemporary Art', Translation and Literature, 22 (2013), 402–35
  • ‘James Thomson’s Picture Collection and British History Painting’, Journal of the History of Collections, 23 (2011), 127–151.
  • ‘Catalogue of James Thomson’s Prints and Drawings’, appendix to the above 
  • ‘Ossian and Ossianic Parallelism in James Barry’s Works’, Eighteenth-Century Ireland, 23 (2008), 94–120
  • ‘Dark Interpreter: Literary Uses of the Brocken Spectre from Coleridge to Pynchon’, Dalhousie Review, 87 (2007), 167–87
  • ‘Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village: Past, Present, and Future’, English 55 (2006), 123–40
  • ‘Socratic Dialogue, the Humanities and the Art of the Question’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice 5 (2006), 181–98
  • ‘James Thomson’s The Castle of Indolence and the Allegory of Selfhood’, The Cambridge Quarterly, 35 (2006), 327–44
  • But cast their eyes on these little wretched beings’: The Innocence and Experience of Poor Children in the Late Eighteenth Century, New Formations, 41 (2001), 115–30
  • James Macpherson’s Ossian and the Empire of Sentiment’ in British Journal for Eight­eenth-Century Studies, 22 (1999), 155–71

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