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School of English and Drama

Dr Merrilees Roberts, BA Hons (Cantab) MA (QMUL) PhD (QMUL)


Lecturer in Romanticism



I studied for my BA in English at Cambridge, before specialising in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century literature through an MA at Queen Mary. I continued my graduate studies at Queen Mary, receiving my PhD on Percy Bysshe Shelley and philosophy in 2018.

I remained in the department as a Teaching Associate, teaching a wide range of courses including continental philosophy and art history, before becoming Lecturer in Romanticism in 2023.

I am a member of the steering committee of Queen Mary’s Centre for the Study of the Nineteenth Century and its Legacies and co-organiser of  ‘The Shelley Conference 2024’, Keats House Museum. 


My pedagogy fosters participation, play and pleasure in collaborative thinking in the seminar room.  

In the academic year 2023-24 I am teaching on:

  • Magical Narratives: Romance as Genre
  • Guillotines, Ghosts and Laughing Gas: Literature in the 1790s
  • Romantics and Revolutionaries
  • Art Histories


Research Interests:

  • Romantic Poetry, particularly P.B. Shelley and Keats
  • Literary theory; aesthetics; moral philosophy; phenomenology
  • Affect theory; philosophies of emotion and consciousness
  • Theories and stylistics of eroticism
  • Representation of involuntary bodily response 

Recent and On-Going Research

My monograph, Shelley’s Poetics of Reticence: Shelley’s Shame (Routledge 2020) explored phenomenological and narratological connections between shame and reticence, arguing that Shelley’s anxieties about the self-containment of the liberal Subject defines the affective and political charges of his poetry and thought. 

I am currently developing models of textual and psychological eroticism which chart connections between contemporary critical theory and developments in the literature, thought and culture of the Romantic period. I am interested in representations of sympathetic response and involuntary bodily response in this period, in theories and practices of literary collaboration and in methodologies for interdisciplinary research. 





Shelley’s Poetics of Reticence: Shelley’s Shame (New York; London: Routledge, 2020)  


Book chapters and articles 


Forthcoming: ‘The Cold Worlds of Byron and Shelley’, Shelley in Context, ed. by Ross Wilson, Cambridge University Press  


‘The Eroticisation of Sleep in the Poetry of John Keats’, English 

2023, 0.0, 1–15 


‘Erotic Affect: The Sticky Bodies of Shelley’s Lyrics to Jane Williams’, Textual Practice, 36.11, 2022  


‘Prometheus Unbound: Reconstitutive Poetics and the Promethean Poet’, The Keats-Shelley Review, 34.2 (2020) 


‘Shame and its Affects: The Form-Content Implosion of Percy Shelley’s The Cenci’, in Affect Theory and Literary Critical Practice: A Feel for the Text (Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)  


‘Psychological Limits in Percy Shelley’s Prefaces’, Romanticism, 24.2 (2018), 158-68 



Public Engagement

Roundtable presentation: ‘When is sculpture an archive?’ Reflections on archival research into John Keats, ECR Research conversation, hosted by the Durham Centre for the Study of the Nineteenth Century, December, 2022.  


Chair and Organiser of British Association for Romantic Studies Digital Event ‘Poetic Form and Biological Form’, June 2022.  


Roundtable presentation on P. B. Shelley’s ‘Jane Poems’ January 2022 


Salon host of ‘Science, Imagination, Desire’ for BARS Romantic Disconnections/Reconnections virtual conference, August 2021.  


Roundtable ‘Table Talk’, ‘Mary Wollstonecraft’s “object lessons”’, for interactive scholarly workshop linked to AHRC-funded project ‘The Romantic Ridiculous’ at Edge Hill University, with Early Career bursary, June 2021 

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