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School of English and Drama

Professor Matthew Rubery, BA (Texas) PhD (Harvard)


Professor of Modern Literature



Matthew Rubery - Reader's Block - A History of Reading DifferencesMy work focuses on modern literature, media, and reading practices. Originally from Texas, I joined Queen Mary in 2010 after teaching in Leeds and Philadelphia for a number of years and completing my doctorate at Harvard. My books include The Novelty of Newspapers: Victorian Fiction after the Invention of the News (Oxford, 2009) and The Untold Story of the Talking Book (Harvard University Press, 2016). Other books that I have edited or co-edited include Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies (Routledge, 2011), Secret Commissions: An Anthology of Victorian Investigative Journalism (Broadview, 2012), and Further Reading (Oxford, 2020). My latest book is titled Reader’s Block: A History of Reading Differences (Stanford, 2022).

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Research Interests:

  • Victorian Fiction
  • Media History and History of the Book
  • Audiobooks and Sound Studies
  • Disability Studies
  • Reading

Recent and On-Going Research

My research interests include modern literature, media, and reading practices. My first book, The Novelty of Newspapers: Victorian Fiction after the Invention of the News (Oxford, 2009), was awarded the European Society for the Study of English Book Award for Junior Scholars. This was followed by Secret Commissions: An Anthology of Victorian Investigative Journalism (Broadview, 2012), which documents how unsparing descriptions of poverty and social injustice became a regular feature of English journalism. Guardian journalist Nick Davies described it as ‘a book full of amazing stuff—Victorian in its facts, but contemporary in its themes’.

My subsequent work continues to explore the relationship between literature and new media. Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies (Routledge, 2011) was the first essay collection to address the significance of recorded literature by authors ranging from Charles Dickens to Toni Morrison and Barack Obama. The Untold Story of the Talking Book (Harvard University Press, 2016) received a Certificate of Merit in the 2017 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Award for Excellence.

My latest books include Further Reading (Oxford, 2020), a collection of more than thirty essays on the status of reading in the twenty-first century, and Reader’s Block: A History of Reading Differences (Stanford, 2022).

My research has been generously supported by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Arts & Humanities Research Council, British Academy, British Library, Leverhulme Trust, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Humanities Center, Swedish Research Council, and Wellcome Trust.

You can find out more about my research on my blog ‘Audiobook History’ and social media such as Twitter (@mattrubery).




Reader’s Block: A History of Reading Differences (Stanford University Press, 2022) 

Further Reading, ed. Matthew Rubery and Leah Price (Oxford University Press, 2020)

The Untold Story of the Talking Book (Harvard University Press, 2016)

The Novelty of Newspapers: Victorian Fiction after the Invention of the News (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies, ed. Matthew Rubery (Routledge, 2011)

Secret Commissions: An Anthology of Victorian Investigative Journalism, ed. Stephen Donovan and Matthew Rubery (Broadview, 2012)

Journal Articles:

‘Amateur Lunatics: Investigative Journalism, Asylum Reform, and the Undercover Authorship of Lewis Wingfield’ (with Stephen Donovan), Victorian Literature and Culture (forthcoming)

‘Emigration with a Vengeance: Undercover Investigative Journalism and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Amateur Emigrant (with Stephen Donovan), Victorian Periodicals Review 54.4 (2021): 527-563.

‘Doing the Amateur Casual: Victorian Investigative Journalism and the Legacy of James Greenwood’s “A Night in a Workhouse”’ (with Stephen Donovan) Victorian Studies 63.3 (2021): 401-30.

“The Turn of the Screw” on the Turntable’, Henry James Review 41.3 (2020): 233-246.

‘The Confessions of a Synesthetic Reader’, Configurations 28.3 (2020): 333-358.

‘Introduction to “Aurality and Literacy’ (with Christopher Cannon), PMLA 135.2 (2020): 350-356.

‘Reader’s Block: Alexia, Neurological Reading Disorders, and the Postliterate Condition’, Literature and Medicine 37.2 (2019): 251-277.

Ulysses, Blindness, and Accessible Modernism’, New Literary History 49.1 (2018): 47-70.

From Shell Shock to Shellac: The Great War, Blindness, and Britain’s Talking Book Library’, Twentieth Century British History 26.1 (2015): 1-25.

Thomas Edison’s Poetry Machine’, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 18 (2014)

‘Canned Literature: The Book after Edison’Book History 16 (2013): 216-46.

The Victorian Walkman’, Victorian Review: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Victorian Studies 38.2 (Fall 2012): 9-13.

Margins of Print: Ephemera, Print Culture, and Lost Histories of the Newspaper’, Introduction (with H.G. Cocks) to special issue of Media History 18.1 (2012): 1-5

Victorian Print Culture, Journalism, and The Novel’, Literature Compass 7.4 (March 2010): 290-300

Roundtable on Géraldine Muhlmann, A Political History of Journalism for Media History 16.4 (2010): 423-27

Victorian Literature Out Loud: Digital Audio Resources for the Classroom’, Journal of Victorian Culture14.1 (April 2009): 134-40

Henry James, in Short’, the Henry James Review 29.3 (Fall 2008): 222-228

Bleak House in Real Time’English Language Notes 46.1 (Spring/Summer 2008): 113-18

Play It Again, Sam Weller: New Digital Audiobooks and Old Ways of Reading’, Journal of Victorian Culture 13.1 (Spring 2008): 58-79

Wishing to Be Interviewed in Henry James’s The Reverberator’, Henry James Review 28.1 (February 2007): 57-72

Unspoken Intimacy in Henry James’s “The Papers”’, Nineteenth-Century Literature 61.3 (December 2006): 343-367

Joseph Conrad’s “Wild Story of a Journalist”’, ELH 71.3 (Fall 2004): 751-774

Book Chapters:

‘Book Audio’, in The Unfinished Book, ed. Alexandra Gillespie and Deidre Lynch (Oxford University Press, 2021), 136-150.  

A Transatlantic Sensation: Stanley’s Search for Livingstone and the Anglo-American Press’, in U.S. Popular Print Culture, 1860-1920 (Oxford History of Popular Print Culture Series), ed. Christine Bold (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011)

Journalism’, in The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Culture, ed. Francis O’Gorman (Cambridge University Press, 2010): 177-94

Journalism’, in Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Novel and Novel Theory, ed. Peter Logan (Oxford: Blackwell, 2011): 455-59

‘Science and Technology’, in Conrad in Context, ed. Allan H. Simmons (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009): 237-44


‘The Harvard Vocarium’, United States Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry (August 2014) 

‘Talking Books’, Nineteenth-Century Disability: A Digital Reader (March 2013)

‘On Henry Morton Stanley’s Search for Dr. Livingstone, 1871-72’, BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net (February 2012)

See also my Queen Mary Research Publications profile


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

Public Engagement

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