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.