Dr Matthew Ward MA, MPhil, PhD

Photograph of Dr Matthew Ward

Department of English Literature
Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature

Contact details

Room 144, Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My work focuses on British Romanticism, and the literature and intellectual history of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Within these parameters I’m especially interested in William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, and Percy Shelley, poetry and poetics, periodization, literary inheritance, theories of humour, the history of emotions, sounds in literature and modes of listening, and ecology and the environment.  I teach widely across eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature at undergraduate and postgraduate level.


  • MA (Oxford)
  • M.Phil (Cambridge)
  • PhD (St Andrews)


I joined the University of Birmingham in 2016, after teaching at the University of St Andrews, where I also obtained my PhD. I took my MA at Oxford, and my M.Phil at Cambridge. Prior to my postgraduate studies, I worked as a nursing auxiliary in a medical assessment unit in a busy hospital in South Wales.


My teaching is principally on literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I convene the third-year modules ‘Politics and Terror in the Age of Revolutions’, ‘Rude Britannia: 1660-1830’, ‘Byron and Keats’. I also teach on a number of first- and second-year modules, including ‘Poetry’, ‘Romantics and Romanticisms’, and ‘Stories of the Novel’.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome enquiries in the following areas: Romantic-period writing – especially the Wordsworths, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, John Keats and the cockney-school; post-Romantic poetry; literary influence and tradition; emotions and affect; humour and comedy in literature; environmental studies and nature writing.

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


My primary interests lie in British Romanticism, especially the poetry of Byron, William Wordsworth, Keats, and Percy Shelley, and Romantic thought, particularly as it develops out of eighteenth-century moral philosophy and influences post-Romantic literature. Much of my work in recent years has revolved around the history of emotions, senses of humour, and poetry, and I have a growing interest in the environmental humanities, especially the sea.

Currently I am revising a monograph about laughter and the laughable in the Romantic period. Through close reading and historical insights, it will provide the first in-depth account of the significance of laughter to the lives and lines of verse of the Romantics. Laughter has generally gone unheard by critics of the period. When acknowledged at all, it tends to be shorthand to denote the humorous. I read it as an affect that tells us much about Romantic emotions, but also sheds new light on how poets conceived of and fashioned their verse - drawing relations between outbursts of laughter and, say, the 'spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings' registered through poetry. The book details the strange and inexplicable nature of laughable experiences (funny feelings), but also illustrates how laughter came to be identified with sympathy, which suggests a sea-change to how people felt about, perceived, and described laughter and the laughable in the Romantic period.

Developing out of my interest in literary tradition and inheritance, I’m also working on projects about Byron and poetic legacies and influence. Even in the solitude of writing, Byron was of a sociable bent. He constantly thought about himself in comparison with other poets. Yet there’s a pervasive tendency in both the popular and academic imagination to think about Byron’s influence in terms of his personal character rather than his art. I’m keen to push at these issues, and the first result of this was a symposium in January 2018, co-organised with Dr Clare Bucknell (University of Oxford). The symposium brought together contributors to exchange ideas about the many ways Byron might be thought to be – perhaps more than most – ‘among’ the poets: alluding and alluded to; collaborative; competitive; parodied; worked and reworked in canons, pantheons, anthologies and miscellanies. A second result of this research is an edited collection, Byron Among the English Poets: Literary Tradition and Poetic Legacy (Cambridge University Press, 2021). A longer-term aim is to develop work on Byron's poetic afterlives, reconsidering poetic practice and criticism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in light of Byron's influence. 

My third area of research emerges out of my specialisms in emotions and affect in literature, and the environmental matters. I’m beginning to think about a project focused on our relationship with the non-human world, and how our emotional lives are crucial to our sense of place and appreciation of  various environments which often manifest themselves in complicated and politically charged ways. This project also expands on my interests in poetic legacies, and how natural environments - especially the shorelines and coasts - are meeting points for poets across time, echoing the rhythms of poetry through the sounds of the sea.

Other activities

I’m co-director of Nineteenth-Century Matters – a series of workshops in pedagogy and research aimed at facilitating discussion, collaborative projects, and support for early career academics in the UK. I’m on the executive committee of the British Association for Romantic Studies and have taken on a variety of roles in that capacity for the past 6 years. I have co-organised several international conferences, including one in collaboration with the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere. I am responsible for reviewing Romantic poetry for Year’s Work in English Studies and have also reviewed for the Keats-Shelley Review, and Forum for Modern Language Studies. In other capacities I have worked with charities in the UK to improve outreach to university, and worked with young people with special educational needs. I’m keen to continue working in these areas.


Highlight publications

Ward, M & Lafford, E 2023, 'Funny Feelings in Nature', European Romantic Review, vol. 34, no. 3.

Ward, M 2022, 'Burns, Satan, and the sin of rhyme', Romanticism, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 208-221. https://doi.org/10.3366/rom.2022.0562

Ward, M 2022, 'Byron, Thomas Hood, and the Tides of Feeling', The Byron Journal, vol. 50, no. 2.

Bucknell, C & Ward, M (eds) 2021, Byron Among the English Poets: Literary Tradition and Poetic Legacy. Cambridge University Press. <https://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/literature/english-literature-1700-1830/byron-among-english-poets-literary-tradition-and-poetic-legacy?format=HB>

Ward, M 2017, 'Laughter, Ridicule, and Sympathetic Humor in the Early Nineteenth Century', SEL - Studies in English Literature, vol. 57, no. 4, pp. 725-749. https://doi.org/10.1353/sel.2017.0032

Recent publications


Ward, M 2024, Romantic Poets and the Laughter of Feeling. Oxford University Press, Oxford.


Ward, M 2016, 'Byron at Play in the Alps', Keats-Shelley Review, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 155-167.

Ward, M 2016, 'Wordsworthian Glee', Essays in Criticism, vol. 66, no. 3, pp. 320-340.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Ward, M 2023, Byron’s poetic endings: Deformed Transformed, The Vision of Judgment, The Island, and ‘On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year’. in The Oxford Handbook of Lord Byron. Oxford University Press.

Ward, M 2023, Shelley's Laughter. in R Wilson (ed.), Percy Shelley in Context. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Ward, M 2021, Arnold's ambivalence and Byron's force and fire. in C Bucknell & M Ward (eds), Byron Among the English Poets: Literary Tradition and Poetic Legacy. Cambridge University Press, pp. 269-286. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108903790.017

Book/Film/Article review

Ward, M 2021, 'Alan Rawes and Diego Saglia's Byron and Italy', Romanticism, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 227-230. https://doi.org/10.3366/rom.2021.0512

Review article

Ward, M 2018, 'Literature 1780-1830: The Romantic Period', The Year's Work in English Studies, vol. 97, no. 1.

Ward, M 2017, 'Literature 1780-1830: The Romantic Period', The Year's Work in English Studies, vol. 96, no. 1.

Ward, M 2016, 'Literature 1780-1830: The Romantic Period', The Year's Work in English Studies, vol. 95, no. 1.

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