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 would 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; literary afterlives; poetry and poetics across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; humour and comedy; sound studies, the environment.

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


Current work involves developing my first monograph about the place of laughter in the long Romantic period. This will be a revised and expanded version of my PhD thesis on the sound of laughter in Romantic poetry, and will have a particular focus on how a masculine identity reacts to and creatively employs laughter. 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 Romantic period. When acknowledged at all, it tends to be shorthand to denote the humorous; I read it as a significant category in its own right that tells us much about human interactions and emotions, and that sheds light on crucial political and aesthetic concerns. Part of my research focuses on laughter in relation to sympathy and identifies a cultural sea-change to how people felt about, perceived, described, and experienced laughter between 1760-1840.

Developing out of my interest in literary periodization and inheritance I’m also focused on a project about Byron’s poetic afterlives. 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 will be a symposium in January 2018, co-organised with Dr Clare Bucknell (University of Oxford). This symposium will bring 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.

My third area of research emerges from my background in sounds in literature and an interest in environmental matters. I’m beginning to think about a project focused on how modes of listening might be related to our approach to, and understanding of, the environment.

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.



  • ‘Laughter, Ridicule, and Sympathetic Humor in the Early Nineteenth Century’, Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, 57: 4 (Autumn, 2017), 10k words.
  • ‘Byron at Play in the Alps’, Keats-Shelley Review, 30: 2 (September, 2016), 8k words.
  • ‘Wordsworthian Glee’, Essays in Criticism, 66: 3 (July, 2016), 8k words.
  • ‘Laughter as Sympathy in Percy Shelley's Poetics’, Cambridge Quarterly, 44: 2 (June, 2015), pp. 146-165 (8k words).

Extended review essays and reviews:

  • ‘Literature 1780-1830: The Romantic Period’, in The Year’s Work in English Studies (forthcoming, 2017), 11k.
  • ‘Literature 1780-1830: The Romantic Period’, in The Year’s Work in English Studies (March, 2016), 12k.
  • Carla Pomare, Byron and the Discourses of History, in Keats-Shelley Review, 28:2 (September, 2014), pp. 140-142.
  • Paul Kameen, Re-reading Poets: The Life of the Author, in Forum for Modern Language Studies, 50:1 (January, 2014), pp. 127-128.