Dr Ruth Abbott, Lucy Cavendish



Biographical Information

I am University Lecturer in the Long Nineteenth Century in the English Faculty, and a fellow of Lucy Cavendish College. Between 2012 and 2014, I was Fellow, Lecturer, and Director of Studies in English at St John’s College, Cambridge; before arriving at St John’s, I was a Lecturer and Junior Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford, and a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University, USA. I did my BA, MPhil, and PhD in English at Clare College, Cambridge. I teach for Part I Paper 1 (Practical Criticism and Critical Practice), Part I Paper 6 (English Literature and its Contexts 1660-1870), Part I Paper 7a (English Literature and its Contexts 1830-1945), Part II Paper 1 (Practical Criticism), Part II Paper 9 (Lyric), Part II Paper 10 (Special Period 1847-1872), and Part II Paper 15 (The English Moralists); I supervise dissertations throughout these areas. I also teach for the 18th Century and Romanticism and Modern and Contemporary MPhil courses, and supervise graduate students working in my fields.

In 2015, I was awarded a CUSU student-led teaching award, with a special mention in the supervisor category, and in 2016, I received the CUSU award for outstanding lecturing. I currently serve as the Faculty's Access and Outreach Officer.

Research Interests

My research focuses on literature of the long 19th century, with a particular emphasis on compositional practices, reading practices, research practices, and writers' notebooks. My first book, Wordsworth’s Notebooks, is a study of the complex manuscript notebooks in which the poet William Wordsworth worked on his never completed, life long project of writing a philosophic poem in blank verse; other work on Wordsworth’s versification and compositional practices has appeared in the journals Textual Practice, Memory Studies, The Wordsworth Circle, The Oxford Handbook of William Wordsworth, and Notes and Queries. More recently, I have been working on George Eliot's research practices, as embodied in her commonplace books, a project for which I held an Early Career Fellowship at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities in the winter of 2014, and which I will be pursuing in 2016 as an Andrew W Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Huntington Library, California, and as a Wallace Fellow at the Harvard University Villa I Tatti in Florence. I am especially interested in the practice of reading aloud, and relations between literature and knowledge, and I am preoccupied at the moment by the history of scholarship, the history of universities, the reception of Hegel in 19th century Britain, and 19th century theories of form. All my work aims to address the significance of the forms in which ideas were embodied and encountered in the 19th century, uncovering relations between aspects of literary form, such as genre and versification, aspects of material form manifested in manuscripts and compositional practices, and intellectual history. 

Areas of Graduate Supervision

I have supervised graduate work at MPhil and PhD level on Anna Barbauld and empire, 18th century philosophies of language, William Wordsworth's political iconography, and Virginia Woolf's reading of Sigmund Freud. I would be glad to hear from potential graduate students wishing to work on any of my research interests.

Selected Publications

Recent and forthcoming publications include: