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School of English and Drama

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


Professor of Modern Literature

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 2689
Room Number: ArtsOne 3.20B
Office Hours: See QMPlus for drop-in hours


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 politics, psychology and sociality of forms ever since. As well as The Cambridge Introduction to Modernist Poetry (2011), this has led me to work on sonnets, the invention of modern English teaching, and the survival of religious belief in a secular world. I am currently finishing The Poetry Circuit, a book about the many ways that the rediscovery of live reading changed modern poetry.


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. In a forthcoming book chapter, I argue that close reading, that disciplinary staple of modern English teaching, developed when modernists tried to imagine the best possible internal performance of their work by a reader, making the work of interpretation a kind of closet drama. My interest in teaching as a kind of publication-performance has also me to guest-edit a special issue of Modernist Cultures (14.3) on Modernism and/as Pedagogy, exploring the detailed relationships of writers to teaching, and opening up the conceptual and artistic impact of modernism’s teaching through experience.

Thanks to a Leverhulme Research Fellowship in 2014-15, I’m now finishing The Poetry Circuit, the first book about the return to live performance in the twentieth century. It uses many long-forgotten recordings to explore how a PR opportunity rapidly became a creative moment for T. S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, Frank O’Hara, Robert Duncan and many others. I’m interested in how the performance circuit’s promoters and institutions shaped the genre, 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.




  • The Poetry Circuit (Oxford University Press, forthcoming)
  • The Cambridge Introduction to Modernist Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)
  • British Poetry in the Age of Modernism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Selected Publications

  • Editor and contributor, ‘Modernism and/as Pedagogy’, special issue of Modernist Cultures, 14.3 (Autumn 2019), 1-34
  • ‘Marianne Moore’s Performances’, English Literary History (forthcoming 2020)
  • ‘Close Reading as Performance’, in Modernism and Close Reading, ed. David James (Oxford University Press, 2020)
  • ‘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
  • ‘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
  • '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:

I have recently 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 in Creative Writing 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), now published by Routledge (2018). Dr Solnick is now Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Liverpool.
  • Steven Quincey-Jones, ‘The Egoistand Its Own: Modernism and Intersubjectivity’ co-supervised with Suzanne Hobson (2014). Dr Quincey-Jones now teaches at the London Academy of Excellence in Stratford.
  • John Dunn, ‘The Limits of Lyric: A Reading of Lyn Hejinian, George Oppen and Robert Duncan’, co-supervised with Mark Currie (2019). Dr Dunn is now Academic Development tutor at the London School of Contemporary Dance, The Place.

I am currently supervising Doriana Licusati on Modern Confessional Writing (with Molly Macdonald) and Danny Rhodes on Modernism, Alchemy and the New Physics (with kitt price).

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.

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