Dr Chris Townsend, Christ's




Biographical Information

I am a Fellow and Teaching Officer at Christ's College, where I am also Director of Studies for Part I students. My B.A. was from the University of Exeter, and I received my M.Phil and Ph.D from Cambridge, where I studied at King's College. I was state-schooled, and I'm of the first generation in my family to go to university.

I was a Bye-Fellow at Christ's before taking up the full fellowship. I've been a visiting researcher at the University of St Andrews and Durham University.

Research Interests

I work on poetry and philosophy, especially in relation to Romanticism and British empiricism. I'm especially interested in how philosophical ideas are translated to poetry, and the role of poetic form in poetry's thinking. I have ongoing interests in the strange and subtle relations of verse to prose in the eighteenth century and beyond, with forthcoming work on Olaudah Equiano's incorporation of poetry within his prose, and William Cowper's blank verse. The latter work is part of an ongoing investigation into cultures of rhyming within abolitionist poetry. As well as that project, which will result in a book, I continue to work on Romanticism and empiricism, under the rubric of philosophical semblance: how poems deal in things that 'seem to be', and how they are themselves strange appearances within the world.

Selected Publications


Philosophical Connections: Akenside, Neoclassicism, and Romanticism (Cambridge University Press, 2022)
George Berkeley and Romanticism: Ghostly Language (Oxford University Press, 2022)


—‘Pope’s Openers and the Almost Four-Beat Dunciad’, English Studies (forthcoming)

—‘Semblances of Truth “The Romantic Lyric” in Lyric Studies’, Literature Compass, 2023
—“Rossetti, Dickinson, and Plath at Rhyme’s Limit”, Poetics Today (forthcoming, 2023)
—“Lyric Over-Hearing: Wordsworth’s Intent to Steal", Critical Quarterly, 2022
—“Semblance and the Romantic Lyric”, European Romantic Review, vol. 33, no. 1, 2022. pp. 25-41.
—“Meter and Modernist Prose: Verse Fragments in Woolf’s The Years”, Modernism/Modernity,vol. 28, no. 3, 2021. pp. 475-96.
—"Aesthetics for Idiots: Truth and Beauty in Elif Batuman’s The Idiot", Critique, 2021.
—"'The Very Music of the Name': Uncertainty as Aesthetic Principle in Keats's Endymion", NCL, vol. 71, no. 4, 2021. pp. 441-472
—“‘Nothing but thought, was it?’: George Berkeley’s Philosophy in Woolf’s The Years”, FMLS, vol. 57, no. 1, 2021. pp.21-29
—“Visionary Immaterialism: Berkeleian Empiricism in Blake’s Poetry”, Studies in Romanticism, vol. 58, no. 3, 2019. pp. 357–382
—“Almost-Poetics: Prose Rhythm in Berkeley’s Siris”, Philosophy and Literature, vol. 43, no. 2, 2019. pp. 336–349
—“Nature and the Language of the Sense: Berkeley’s Thought in Coleridge and Wordsworth”, Romanticism, vol. 25, no. 2, 2019. pp. 129–142

Book chapters:
—‘The British Empiricists’, Percy Shelley in Context, ed. Ross Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)