School of English and Drama

Dr Peter Howarth, BA (Oxon) PhD (Cambridge), BA Contextual Theology (Durham)


Senior Lecturer in Modern Literature and National Teaching Fellow



I came to Queen Mary in 2007, after lecturing at the University of Nottingham (2000-2007) and completing a PhD at Cambridge in 2000. My first book, British Poetry in the Age of Modernism (CUP, 2006) explored the poetics of non-modernism in the twentieth century, and my teaching and writing have continued to explore the relation of form, social setting and historical time ever since.


In 2012 I was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship for leading innovative teaching on the way artworks inhabit, absorb or fight their context. I think the seminar is one of those contexts, and my teaching is always geared towards maintaining a sense of the text’s live happening, not just as finished product.

Undergraduate Teaching

I have taught on:

  • ESH124: Poetry
  • ESH350: Modernism and Democracy
  • ESH6051: Poetry and Media

Postgraduate Teaching

I have taught on:

  • ESH7006: Forms of Modernism


Research Interests:

  • modern British and American poetry
  • modern aesthetic forms and their relation to sociology, group psychology, anthropology and religion
  • modernism and/as pedagogy
  • performance, audio and media theory

Recent and On-Going Research:

The Cambridge Introduction to Modernist Poetry takes the long view of modernism, setting its innovations within the longer history of the German Idealist programme for Art to be a democratic education through the precarious balance of form and material, or the work with its surroundings. Tracing these ideas through to the fragment, the found text, the difficult and the oral-ritual, the book argues that Modernist poetry is better thought of as attempted re-enchantment than disenchantment, as immersive experience rather than just cultural high-handedness, and, for good or ill, as the natural partner to anti-representative politics. Work on the later modernist rediscovery of performance poetry (from Afro-Modernism to Bunting) and the unavoidable self-consciousness of the sonnet form (in the Cambridge Companion to the Sonnet, co-edited with A. D. Cousins) led me to wonder how other modern poets have anticipated the space of their poems’ future performance, and I have since written on Kipling in the Music Hall, the First World War poets’ sense of public ritual, and Alice Oswald’s acoustic ecology of place.

Thanks to a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, I’m now mid-way through a book about the rapid growth of performance poetry circuit after WW2, using long-forgotten recordings to explore how a PR opportunity rapidly became a creative moment for Eliot, Auden, Moore, O’Hara, Duncan, Ginsberg and many others. I’m interested in what the performance circuit’s promoters and institutions thought they were up to, and how performers found themselves translating page-based poetic forms into a sense of co-constructed time with their audience, involving experimental theatre, broadcast media, religious ritual and celebrity confession, group psychology, civil rights, participative democracy and, of course, teaching.


Selected Publications:

‘Snap Me’ [on Veronica Forrest-Thomson], London Review of Books, 6 October 2016, pp. 25=26.

‘On the Circuit’, and

‘Both Sides of the Footlights’, Stylus, November 2015.

‘On Nicholas Moore’, London Review of Books, 24 September 2015. p. 33.

‘Electroplated Fish Knife’ [on Selected Poems of Robert Graves], London Review of Books, 31 May 2015, pp. 33-35

‘Holy Apple Pie!’ [on the Cambridge Edition of D H Lawrence’s Collected Poems], London Review of Books, 15 May 2014, pp. 27-29.

‘Rudyard Kipling Plays the Empire’, The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Poetry, ed. Matthew Bevis (Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 605-620.

‘Form and First World War Poetry’, The Cambridge Companion to First World War Poetry, ed. Santanu Das (Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 51-66.

‘“Water's Soliloquy”: Soundscape and Environment in Alice Oswald's Dart’, in Poetry & Geography: Space and Place in Post-War Poetry, ed. by D. Cooper and N. Alexander (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013)

‘Autonomous and Heteronomous in Modernist Form: From Romantic Image to the New Modernist Studies’,Critical Quarterly, 54 (2012), 71-80 doi:10.1111/j.1467-8705.2012.02040

The Cambridge Introduction to Modernist Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

‘Georgian Poetry’, in T. S. Eliot in Context, ed. J. Harding (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 221-30

‘Housman's Dirty Postcards: Poetry, Modernism, and Masochism’, PMLA, 124 (2009), 764-81

‘Creative Writing and Schiller's Aesthetic Education’, Journal of Aesthetic Education, 41 (2007), 41-58

‘Rupert Brooke's Celebrity Aesthetic', English Literature in Transition 1880-1920, 49 (2006), 272-92 doi:10.2487/R244-U660-1591-W007

'Eliot in the Underworld: the Politics of Fragmentary Form', Textual Practice, 20 (2006), 441-62 doi:10.1080/09502360600828893

British Poetry in the Age of Modernism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)

'The Simplicity of W. H. Davies', English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, 46 (2003), 155-174

See also my Queen Mary Research Publications profile


I am currently supervising three Ph.D students: Doriana Licusati on modern confessional writing, Daniel Rhodes on Modernist Alchemy, and John Dunn on Temporality in Contemporary American poetry.

I have supervised the following successful PhD projects:

  • Helen Tyson, PhD on Reading Modernism’s Readers, (2016) Dr Tyson is now Lecturer in Modern Literature at the University of Sussex.
  • Stephen Willey, 'Bob Cobbing 1950-1978: Performance, Poetry and the Institution', co-supervised with Andrea Brady (2012). Dr Willey is now Lecturer at Birkbeck College
  • Sam Solnick, 'Poetry in the Anthropocene: Ecology, Biology and Technology in the work of Ted Hughes, J. H. Prynne and Derek Mahon' (2013). Dr Solnick is now William Noble Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Liverpool.
  • Steven Quincey-Jones, ‘The Egoist and Its Own: Modernism and Intersubjectivity’ co-supervised with Suzanne Hobson (2014). Dr Quincey-Jones is presently organiser of the Globe Road Poetry Festival. He currently teaches at the London Academy of Excellence in Stratford.

Public Engagement

I write regularly for the London Review of Books, and have recently written about National Poetry Day for The Independent. I put on two conferences for academics and school teachers about teaching poetry across the school-university transition, and keep strong links with A-Level teaching through mentoring, local teacher networks and consultancy for exam boards.

You can read more about my media and public appearances here.