My research centres on Victorian fiction and death culture with a particular focus upon the contradictions and complexities inherent in the Victorian 'celebration of death'. My first book on this subject Dickens and the Business of Death was published by Cambridge University Press in 2015. This explored Dickens's fascination with the many different ways that you could make money from a corpse in Victorian England from anatomy to authorship. I am currently working on 'Dead Funny' a project that examines death comedy in the work of Dickens and a range of other nineteenth-century writers.
Before joining the University of Leicester I was a research associate at the University of York and worked at the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement. I am passionate about engagement and have led a number of public engagement initiatives including the AHRC-funded Sensory Stories project that trained postgraduates to communicate complex research ideas using multi-sensory hooks.
My research interests include death, mourning, and commemoration; material culture; ghosts and afterlives; and the body.
Current projects include:
- The Dickens Code an AHRC-funded initiative that seeks solutions to Dickens’s mysterious shorthand writing.
- 'Dead Funny' a research project that explores what is and isn’t funny about death dying and disposal in nineteenth-century literature and culture.
- A new edition of The Old Curiosity Shop for the Oxford Edition of Charles Dickens.
- Co-editing the Edinburgh Companion to Dickens and the Arts for Edinburgh University Press.
I have written pieces on epitaphs, material culture, and Dickens’s ghost stories, and published various reviews in journals including the Times Literary Supplement, Literature and History, and Dickens Quarterly. In 2013 I completed a postdoc at the Charles Dickens Museum London which examined the reach and diversity of activities organised to celebrate the Dickens 2012 Bicentenary.
- Dickens and the Business of Death (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
Articles and book chapters
- Victoriographies 10.3 (2020) Special Issue: Dickens, Death, and Afterlives, eds. Emily Bell and Claire Wood. Including a co-written introduction and an article on 'Dickens and the Art of Epitaph'.
- 'From Movable Book to iPad App: Playing A Christmas Carol', in Reading Dickens Differently, eds. Leon Litvack and Nathalie Vanfasse (Wiley Blackwell, 2019)
- 'Material Culture', in The Oxford Handbook of Charles Dickens, eds. Robert L. Patten, John O. Jordan and Catherine Waters (OUP, 2018)
- 'Playful Spirits: Charles Dickens and the Ghost Story', in The Routledge Handbook to the Ghost Story, eds. Scott Brewster and Luke Thurston (Routledge, 2017)
- 'Death', in Oxford Bibliographies Online: Victorian Literature, ed. Juliet John (Oxford University Press, 2017
- Jeremy Tambling, Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby, and the Dance of Death, in Dickens Quarterly 37.4 (2020)
- Pamela K. Gilbert, Victorian Skin, in The Dickensian 116 (2020)
- 'An Academic on Tour', reviewing Homes and Haunts: Touring Writers’ Shrines and Countries by Alison Booth, in Journal of Victorian Culture (online 2018)
- Peter Merchant and Catherine Waters (eds.), Dickens and the Imagined Child, in Dickens Quarterly 33.4 (2016)
- Mary Hammond, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations: A Cultural Life, 1860-2012, in Review 19 (2016)
- ‘Delicacy above all’, reviewing Forget Me Not: The Rise of the British Literary Annual, 1823–1835 by Katherine D. Harris, in Times Literary Supplement (4 December 2015)
- Patrick Parrinder, Andrew Nash and Nicola Wilson (eds.), New Directions in the History of the Novel, in Literature and History 24.1 (2015)
I currently supervise doctoral projects in the following areas: Dickens and dream theory; psycho-spatial territories in Dickens's fiction; carnivalesque sentiment in Victorian sensation fiction; Bram Stoker's lesser-known works; and Austen and Gaskell's fiction.
I welcome new postgraduate students with research interests in any of the following areas: Dickens's life and work; death, mourning, and commemoration; Victorian things; Victorian fiction more generally.
- EN3328 Victorians: From Oliver Twist to The Picture of Dorian Gray (convenor)
- EN3209 The Living and the Dead in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture (convenor)
- EN1010 Reading English
- EN3010 Dissertation
MA Victorian Studies and MA English Studies
- EN7021 Approaches to Victorian Literature and Culture
- EN7022 Dissertation
MA English Studies
- EN7001 Research Methods and Writing Skills for Postgraduates
- EN7227 Dissertation
I also offer special subject options on Dickens for undergraduates (EN2036: Charles Dickens) and postgraduates (EN7140: Dickens and the 1840s).
Press and media
I am happy to receive press enquiries about Dickens, the Dickens Code, and Victorian death culture.
I am the Secretary of the Dickens Society, a member of the editorial boards for Dickens Quarterly and Victoriographies, and an Associate Editor of Research for All.
Since 2009 I have served on the British Association for Victorian Studies Executive Committee in a series of roles including postgraduate representative Web and Publicity Officer and Public Engagement Officer.
I have organised or co-organised the following conferences and events:
Dickens Day, Senate House, London (October 2022)
The Dickens Society Symposium (Programme Committee, 2022)
The British Association for Victorian Studies' 'BAVS@Home' series (2021)
Decoding Dickens: Contexts, Approaches, Inspirations Symposium (July 2021)
George Eliot 2019: An International Bicentenary Conference (2019)
The Victorian Studies Centre Spring Seminar Series (2017-)
Placing the Author: Literary Tourism in the Long Nineteenth Century Conference (2015)
The Materials of Mourning Symposium (2011)
Press release: 'The Dickens Code: Enduring mystery of Dickens shorthand letter solved with crowd-sourced research', University of Leicester News (7 February 2022) [digital]
- Feature: Simon Usborne, 'Forget Wordle! Can you crack the Dickens Code? An IT worker from California just did', Guardian (7 February 2022) [print and digital]
Daniel Capurro, 'Unique shorthand created by Charles Dickens finally deciphered, revealing angry dispute with newspaper', The Telegraph (7 February 2022) [print and digital]
talkSPORT/talkRADIO – 'Extra Time with Paul Ross' (30 December 2021)
Press release: 'The secret behind Scrooge? Research studies Dickens’ coded letters', University of Leicester News (16 December 2021) [digital]
Feature: Sara Tor, 'What the Dickens? Academics offer reward for anyone who can crack the great writer's code', The Times (Saturday 20 November 2021) [print and digital]
'Free Thinking, Being Human 2021' on BBC Radio 3 (11 November 2021). Listen here.
BA Hons English, University of York
MA in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture (Distinction), University of York
PHD English, University of York
Postgraduate Certificate in Academic and Professional Practice, University of Leicester
Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy