Alexander Wright, Sidney Sussex

Degree: PhD
Course: 18CR
Supervisor: Prof S Jarvis
Dissertation Title:

*Historia Literaria* in the long eighteenth century


Biographical Information

I read for my undergraduate degree in English at Lincoln College, Oxford (2009-2012) before coming to Cambridge for my M.Phil (2013-14) and now my Ph.D (2014-). I am a Gledhill Scholar at Sidney Sussex College, which funds my research in combination with the AHRC.

Research Interests

My doctoral research explores the ways in which English critics, ecclesiastical historians, and antiquarians wrote about the history of ‘literature’ between, roughly, the 1680s and 1780s. I am aiming to connect up the more familiar accounts of the development of literary history in this period – really the history of poetry – with a less familiar story about how and why eighteenth-century scholars wanted to describe the rise and fall of learned books and ideas: that is, ‘literary history’ or historia literaria in its eighteenth-century sense. Samuel Johnson’s work will form the capstone of my thesis because one of the achievements of his career was to bring to bear onto the study of English poetry the full weight of his knowledge of this European, Latinate tradition. Before I reach Johnson, I will consider a number of writers, including George Hickes, Thomas Carte, and Gilbert Burnet, who were all attentive, in different ways, to some of the specific concerns or interests that shaped literary historiography in this period: like the reception of Jacques-Auguste de Thou; the interpretation of the first four centuries of Christianity; the diffusion of German text-books about how to manage scholarly information; and the need to cope with recent crises in England’s political and ecclesiastical life. Currently I am studying the writings of William Cave, the first English writer to give his work the title of Historia literaria and, appropriately enough, the last author whom Johnson read before his death. Please see my academia.edu page for more details.

Areas of Supervision

I have supervised Part II Practical Criticism, and I would be happy to supervise Practical Criticism for Parts I & II, and, for Part I, Papers 4 and 6.