Professor Michael H. Whitworth

I am currently working a project concerning on science, poetry, and specialization in the early twentieth century, which I expect to lead to a series of journal articles or a monograph.  This project considers the ways in which poets use scientific diction and imagery in their poetry, both as part of the revival of metaphysical poetry in the period and more broadly.  It will include work on Mina Loy, Herbert Read, Michael Roberts, William Empson, C. Day Lewis, W. H. Auden, and Hugh MacDiarmid.  I am currently investigating whether to extend its chronological boundaries further back and/or forwards.

I am also working on several articles and book chapters on other literature and science themes: quantum mechanics and modernism; science and modern epic; Virginia Woolf, science, and religion; and science in the Bloomsbury Group. I have recently completed a chapter on T.S. Eliot and print culture for Eliot Now, ed. Megan Quigley and David Chinitz, and one on the literariness of popular science writing for a collection on non-canonical literature.  Other recently published work includes a chapter on Oliver Lodge's popular science writing in the 1920s, a chapter on the relation of Hugh MacDiarmid's poetry to dictionaries, and a chapter on historicist literature and science and its relation to literary theory. 

I have published extensively on Virginia Woolf, my most recent works being an edition of Virginia Woolf's Night and Day for Cambridge University Press (published 2018) and an article, 'Traces of War in Night and Day', Modernist Cultures (2021).


Prelims: Literature in English 1830-1910 and 1910-present; Introduction to Literary Studies.
Finals: dissertations on literature 1900 to the present, especially modernism.
M.St.: C-course on Literature and Science; B course seminars.

Postgraduate Supervision:

I would welcome inquiries from prospective supervisees in the areas of modernist fiction and poetry, literature and science, book history and the sociology of texts (especially periodical studies), late modernist poetry, and other areas suggested by my research interests, publications, and doctoral supervision. I am supervising, or have supervised, the following Oxford D.Phil. theses:

Rose, Madeleine. ‘Entanglement and Innovation in the Work of H.D., Marianne Moore, and Charlotte Mew’ (began January 2023).

Johnston, Holly James. ‘“Why am I as I am—and what am I?”: Queer Coming-Of-Age Narratives in the Early Twentieth-Century’ (began October 2022).

Stuart, Isabelle. 'Modernist Poetry Recitation Practices 1899-1945' (began October 2021).

Felin, Emma. 'Perception in Modernist Women's Poetry: Stein, Loy, Mirrlees, and Moore' (began October 2021).

Brown, Kieran. 'Reading Capital: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project' (began October 2020).

Gaspard, Sarah. ‘The Trifold Aesthetic Systematizing Mental Illness in Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature’ (began October 2020).

Hand, Dominic. ‘Symbiopoetics: Posthumanism and Ecology in Contemporary Anthropocene Poetry’ (began October 2020).


Previous supervisees:

Sridhar, Anirudh. 'Agon: Poetry's Resistance to the Mathematisation of Reality (1920s-1960s)’ (examined 2020).

Dihal, Kanta. ‘The Stories of Quantum Physics: Quantum Physics in Literature and Popular Science, 1900-present’ (co-supervised with Sally Shuttleworth; examined 2018).

Cole, Jennifer. 'American Poetry and the Emerging Social Sciences in the Early Twentieth Century’ (examined 2018).

Foley, Hugh. 'Landscape and Empire in American Poetry from Elizabeth Bishop to Ben Lerner' (co-supervised with Lloyd Pratt; examined 2017).

Dawkins, Charlie. 'Modernism in mainstream magazines, 1910-1939: writers, readers, and the creation of audiences' (examined 2016).

Ludtke, Laura. 'Electric Lights and the "London-writer," 1880-1945' (examined 2015).

Stalla, Heidi. ‘Life is in the Manuscript: Virginia Woolf, Historiography, and the Mythical Method’ (primarily supervised by David Bradshaw; examined 2015).

Shackleton, David. 'Deep Time, The Subject and the Modernist Novel' (examined 2015).

Lutton, Alison. 'Authorship and the Production of Literary Value, 1982-2012: Bret Easton Ellis, Paul Auster, JT Leroy, and Tucker Max' (examined 2014)

Hodges, Liz. 'An Exploration of Sight and its Relationship with Reality in World War One and World War Two Literature' (examined 2014).

Taylor, Mark. 'The Impact of Evolutionary Biology on the Fiction of D.H. Lawrence' (examined 2013).

Day, Jonathan. 'Novel Sensations: Modernist Fictions and the Problem of Qualia' (examined 2013).

Eros, Paul James. '“One of the Most Penetrating Minds in England:” Gerald Heard and the British Intelligentsia of the Interwar Period' (primarily supervised by David Bradshaw; examined 2012).

Pratt-Smith, Stella. 'Creative sparks : literary responses to electricity, 1830-1880' (examined 2012).

Crossland, Rachel. 'Sharing the moment's discourse : Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence and Albert Einstein in the early twentieth century' (examined 2011).

Hay, Andrew. 'Correlation and Figuration: A study of Modernism’s conceptual couplings' (examined 2010).

After secondary education in Oxfordshire, I read English at St Anne's College, Oxford. At sixth-form college I had studied Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics alongside English; this background informed my interest as an undergraduate in Darwinism and Victorian literature, which in turn prompted my research work. My D.Phil. research, also undertaken at Oxford, concerned the reception of the new physics, particularly relativity theory, among British modernist writers. I taught at the University of Wales, Bangor, from 1995 to 2005, and in 2001 organized the 11th Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf. I returned to Oxford in 2005 as University Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature and Tutorial Fellow of Merton College.

My research is concerned with modernism, modernity, and modernist writers. I am still actively researching the relations of literature and science. A Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2005-07) enabled me to examine the use of scientific discourse by poets in the early twentieth century in the context of increasing disciplinary specialization. I am co-founder of the British Society for Literature and Science and have served on its committee as Secretary, Chair, and Treasurer.

Writing Virginia Woolf (2005) broadened my interest in the contextualization of literature to include social and political contexts. My edition of Woolf's Night and Day (for CUP) builds on these interests. I serve on the editorial board of the Woolf Studies Annual. My interest in publishing history began in relation to popular science publishing, and was extended in my research on Woolf. I am working on a descriptive bibliography of Herbert Read, and have further interests in modernist periodicals and in literary anthologies. From 2008-2011 I was an editor of the Review of English Studies, and its reviews editor.

My college teaching covers the Victorian period and twentieth and twenty-first centuries. My faculty lectures and seminars concentrate on twentieth-century topics, including modernist poetry and Virginia Woolf.  I regularly teach and supervise on the M.St.; I have previously offered 'C'-course options on Late Modernist Poetry and on Virginia Woolf, and I currently offer one on Literature and Science.


Membership of Societies

I am a member of:

  • BAMS: British Assocation for Modernist Studies 
  • BSLS: British Society for Literature and Science
  • VWSGB: Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain

College Website