Skip to main content
School of English and Drama

Professor David Duff, BA, MA, DPhil (York), FEA


Professor of Romanticism | Director of Research



I joined Queen Mary in 2016, having previously taught for many years at the University of Aberdeen. I grew up in Nottingham and studied in York for my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. After completing my doctorate, I taught English and American literature at the Nicholas Copernicus University of Torun, in Poland, and was then British Council lecturer at the University of Gdansk for two years. I later spent a semester on a staff exchange at the College of William and Mary in the USA and in 2015 was a professeur invité at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.

I retain close links with Europe and in 2016 founded the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar, an international research forum involving other colleges of the University of London and a number of French institutions. It invites speakers from across Europe and beyond to its monthly seminar in London as well as hosting a biennial symposium in Paris. I am also co-director of the International Summer School of Romanticism, an annual event launched in Prague in 2022.

I am interested in all aspects of Romanticism, including its international dimension. My other main research interest is the history and theory of genres, and literary theory more generally.

I take an active part in professional life and am currently Chair of the English Association as well as an elected Fellow and Trustee. I was previously Chair of the Council for College and University English (now University English) and of the Common English Forum


Much of my teaching is the area of Romanticism but I also teach earlier and later periods and enjoy teaching modules which trace the development of a genre or theme over large stretches of time. Another focus of my teaching is literary theory, both its modern and earlier forms.

Undergraduate Teaching

In 2022-23, I am teaching on:

First semester

  • ESH 286 Romantics and Revolutionaries (convener)
  • ESH 6041 Guillotines, Ghosts and Laughing Gas: Literature in the 1790s (convener)

Second semester

Research leave


Research Interests:

  • Romanticism
  • Shelley and his circle
  • The 1790s
  • Genre
  • Literary theory
  • History of the book

Recent and Ongoing Research

My main current research project is a literary history of the prospectus, a type of printed advertisement used to announce forthcoming or projected books and journals. Prospectuses were a staple device of the British book trade in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and many writers made use of them to promote their work and communicate with prospective readers. My project studies both actual prospectuses and artistically transformed versions such as Wordsworth’s ‘Prospectus’ to The Recluse, Frere’s Prospectus and Specimen of an Intended National Work and Blake’s ‘Public Address’. This is the first-ever study of a largely forgotten genre which was a very familiar part of the Romantic book world and had deep affinities with Romantic poetics. I have published several articles and book chapters on this research and am now completing a monograph.

My work on the prospectus is part of a broader interest in literary forms and formats and in ideas about genre in the Romantic period and beyond. In Romanticism and the Uses of Genre (2009), I explored a wide range of genres and genre theories from 1760 to 1830, addressing such topics as generic primitivism and forgery; Enlightenment philosophy and the ‘cognitive turn’; the impact of German transcendental aesthetics; the role of genre in the French Revolution debate; the poetics of the fragment and sketch; and the theory and practice of genre-mixing. This book was widely reviewed and won the ESSE Book Award for Literatures in the English Language.

A related publication is my ground-breaking anthology Modern Genre Theory (2000), which gathered together for the first time key twentieth-century writings on genre from different countries, including some previously untranslated essays. Working in Eastern Europe for several years gave me a particular interest in Russian Formalism and its legacy, and in ideas about intertextuality and influence, and I have since written commentaries on theorists such as Tynianov, Bakhtin, Kristeva and Bloom. I have also ventured into cognitive poetics, a branch of modern literary theory I connect with earlier theories of literary form and artistic perception. These will feature, too, in my projected philosophical history of ‘bad poetry’, a Coleridgean idea I hope to pursue at some point in the future. 

My first book, Romance and Revolution: Shelley and the Politics of a Genre (1994), was about Queen Mab and Laon and Cythna. I have continued to publish on Shelley, particularly his early poetry, and contributed to two pioneering collections, The Unfamiliar Shelley (2009) and The Neglected Shelley (2015), as well as to The Oxford Handbook of Percy Bysshe Shelley (2012). I have also written on Prometheus Unbound and ‘Ode to the West Wind’, one of several publications on the Romantic ode and Romantic lyric more broadly.

The literary impact of the French Revolution is another on-going research interest, reflected in my chapter on Burke and Paine for The Cambridge Companion to British Literature of the French Revolution in the 1790s (2011). I recently co-edited a special issue of the journal Litteraria Pragensia on Wordsworth and France (2017), the first collection of essays on this topic. It includes an essay of mine on Wordsworth’s revolutionary pamphlet A Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff and a virtual round table I chaired on the ‘French’ books of The Prelude. A free download of this and another volume I co-edited on Exiles, Émigrés and Expatriates in Romantic-Era Paris and London (2019) is available on the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar website.

As well as researching the European contexts of British Romanticism, I have contributed to the development of a ‘Four Nations’ approach with my co-edited collection Scotland, Ireland, and the Romantic Aesthetic (2007) and other publications. My latest book, The Oxford Handbook of British Romanticism (2018), extends this archipelagic approach, offering unprecedented coverage of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish Romanticism, and setting these against broader international currents. Containing 46 essays by leading scholars, the Handbook also examines the publishing and reception history of Romantic writing and includes rarely covered topics such as freedom of speech, Romantic oratory and literary uses of dialect.

I am currently editing another book for Oxford University Press, The Oxford Anthology of Romanticism, which, like my Handbook, will offer a conceptual remapping of the field by adopting a ‘Four Nations’ approach, including less familiar as well as canonical authors, and offering a much wider range of background material than is available in existing anthologies.




Journal Special Issues

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

  • ‘Romanticism and Periodization: A Roundtable’ (co-authored with Nicholas Halmi, Fiona Stafford, Martin Procházka and Laurent Folliot), in Romanticism and Time: Literary Temporalities, ed. Sophie Laniel-Musitelli and Céline Sabiron (Open Book Publishers, 2021), 227-72
  • ‘The Romantic Ode and the Art of Brinkmanship’, in Keats’s Odes, 200 Years On, ed. Caroline Bertonèche, Jeremy Elprin and Laurent Folliot, special issue of Etudes Anglaises 73.2 (2020), 137-58
  • ‘The Prospectus War of the 1790s: Literary Advertising in an Age of Revolution’, in Literary Ephemera, ed. Sandro Jung, special issue of Eighteenth-Century Life 44.2 (2020), 41-75
  • ‘The Book to Come: Literary Advertising and the Poetics of the Prospectus’, in Forms, Formats and the Circulation of Knowledge: British Printscape’s Innovations, 1688 -1832, ed. Louisiane Ferlier and Bénédicte Miyamoto (Brill, 2020), 229-52
  • ‘Literary Sampling and the Poetics of the Specimen’, in Sibylline Leaves, ed. Luisa Calè and Marianne Brooker, special issue of Studies in Romanticism 59.1 (2020), 109-32. 
  • ‘The Eighteenth Century and Romanticism’, in William Blake in Context, ed. Sarah Haggarty (Cambridge University Press, 2019), 192-99
  • ‘Wordsworth’s Anglo-French Pamphlet: Public Argument and Private Confession in “A Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff”‘, in Wordsworth and France, ed. David Duff, Marc Porée and Martin Procházka, special issue of Litteraria Pragensia 54 (2017), 76-95. Free download
  • (with Marc Porée, Christoph Bode, Martin Procházka, Laurent Folliot, Christy Edwall), ‘The “French” Books of The Prelude: A Virtual Round Table’, in Wordsworth and France, ed. David Duff, Marc Porée and Martin Procházka, special issue of Litteraria Pragensia 54 (2017), 114-54. Free download
  • ‘Turns, Transports and Transformations: Lyric Events in Romantic Poetry’, in Narratives of Romanticism: Selected Papers from the Wuppertal Conference of the German Society for English Romanticism, ed. Sandra Heinen and Katharina Rennhak (Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2017), 137-48
  • ‘Harps, Heroes and Yelling Vampires: The 1810 Poetry Collections’, in The Neglected Shelley, ed. Alan Weinberg and Timothy Webb (Ashgate, 2015; Routledge, 2019), 51-76
  • ‘Preludes to Knowledge: The Poetics of the Encyclopaedia Prospectus’, in Romanticism and Knowledge, ed. Felicitas Meifert-Menhard, Stefanie Fricke and Katharina Pink (Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2015), 189-200
  • ‘Wordsworth’s “Prospectus”: The Genre’, in The Excursion: A Bicentenary Celebration, ed. Tom Duggett and Jacob Risinger, special issue of The Wordsworth Circle 45.2 (2014), 178-84
  • Hamlet and the Romantic Critical Tradition’, Nuovi Quaderni del CRIER, Anno X - 2013, Il Romanticismo Oggi (Fiorini, 2014), 13-32
  • ‘Melodies of Mind: Poetic Forms as Cognitive Structures’, in Cognition, Literature, and History, ed. Mark Bruhn and Donald Wehrs (Routledge, 2014), 17-38
  • ‘The Retuning of the Sky: Romanticism and Lyric’, in The Lyric Poem: Formations and Transformations, ed. Marion Thain (Cambridge University Press, 2013), 135-55
  • ‘Novelization and its Discontents’, in Anglistentag 2011 Freiburg: Proceedings, ed. Monika Fludernik and Bernd Kortmann (Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2012), 113-23. Open Access
  • ‘Charles Lamb’s Art of Intimation’, The Wordsworth Circle 43.3 (2012), 127-34
  • ‘Lyric Development: Esdaile Notebook to 1816 Hymns’, in The Oxford Handbook of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Michael O’Neill and Anthony Howe, with Madeleine Callaghan (Oxford University Press, 2012), 240-55
  • ‘Intimations of Informality: Ode and the Essay Form’, in Informal Romanticism, ed. James Vigus, Studien zur Englischen Romantik (Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2012), 145-59
  • ‘Burke and Paine: Contrasts’, in The Cambridge Companion to British Writing of the French Revolution in the 1790s, ed. Pamela Clemit (Cambridge University Press, 2011), 47-70
  • ‘Superscriptions of Bliss: Influence and Form in the Poetry of Lawrence’, in Reading, Writing and the Influence of Harold Bloom, ed. Alan Rawes and Jonathon Shears (Manchester University Press, 2010), 193-216
  • ‘“The Casket of My Unknown Mind”: The 1813 Volume of Minor Poems’, in The Unfamiliar Shelley, ed. Alan Weinberg and Timothy Webb (Ashgate, 2009; Routledge, 2019), 41-67
  • ‘Wordsworth and the Language of Forms: The Collected Poems of 1815’, The Wordsworth Circle 34.2 (2003), 86-90
  • ‘Maximal Tensions and Minimal Conditions: Tynianov as Genre Theorist’, in Theorizing Genres 2, ed. Ralph Cohen and Hayden White, special issue of  New Literary History 34.3 (2003), 553-63. Open Access
  • ‘Muir’s Facsimiles and the Missing Visions’, Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly 37.1 (2003), 32-34. Open Access
  • ‘Intertextuality versus Genre Theory: Bakhtin, Kristeva and the Question of Genre’, Paragraph 25.1 (2002), 54-73
  • ‘Anti-Didacticism as a Contested Principle in Romantic Aesthetics’, Eighteenth-Century Life 25.2 (2001), 256-74
  • ‘The Ode and Its Afterlife’, in Paradoksy humanistyki: Ksiaga pamiatkowa ku czci Profesora Andrzeja Zgorzelskiego, ed. Ola Kubinska and David Malcolm (University of Gdansk Press, 2001), 103-14
  • ‘Paratextual Dilemmas: Wordsworth’s “The Brothers” and the Problem of Generic Labelling’, Romanticism 6.2 (2000), 234-61
  • ‘Shelley’s “Foretaste of Heaven”: Romantic Poetics and The Esdaile Notebook’, The Wordsworth Circle 31.3 (2000), 149-58


I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.

Public Engagement

I am regularly asked for public comment in my role as Chair of the English Association, which promotes and defends English studies in schools and universities. In 2021, as part of a campaign for greater public recognition of the value of English, I was quoted in the Guardian and published an open letter in the Daily Mail.

In February 2017, I was Guest of Honour at the Birthday Celebration Luncheon of The Charles Lamb Society, and gave a lecture in the Swedenborg Hall in Bloomsbury on the subject ‘Charles Lamb and the Twilight Zone’. 

In January 2017, I delivered the ‘Immortal Memory’ address at the Annual Festival Dinner of The Burns Club of London, speaking about the history of the song ‘Auld Lang Syne’. As part of it, I organised a live performance by singers Isla Sinclair and George Staines, accompanied by my daughter Konstancja, a professional pianist. This included a ballad version of the song that has probably not been heard for 200 years.

In January 2016, my first public engagement after starting at Queen Mary was to give the ‘Immortal Memory’ address at the 2016 Burns Supper at The Caledonian Club.

Back to top