Prof Marcus Waithe, Magdalene



Biographical Information

I am Professor of Literature and the Applied Arts in the Faculty of English, and a Fellow in English at Magdalene College. At Magdalene, I am the College (Fellow) Librarian, and a Director of the Design & Build company that planned the College’s RIBA national award and RIBA Stirling Prize winning New Library. I also serve as an external member of the Advisory Board of The Ruskin: Museum and Research Centre, Lancaster University. In 2022, I became the Chair of The Ruskin Society.

Before returning to Cambridge in 2009, I held the post of Lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Sheffield (from 2005), having graduated from King's College, Cambridge with a Ph.D. in 2004. I was an undergraduate at the University of Leeds, and before that attended state schools in Essex.

Research Interests

My work spans three interrelated fields, with a focus on the nineteenth century, but also encompassing more recent contexts. In each case, I am interested in how literary language addresses and reimagines criteria drawn from different media (esp. the crafts, the applied arts, and architecture) and other disciplines (esp. political theory and law). I retain a sense, nevertheless, of English as a discipline that promotes distinct insights and sensitivities. I would include a commitment to confronting the dynamic complexity of literature as art.

  • Nineteenth-century constructions of authorship: work, style, craft

My most recent book, The Work of Words: Literature, Craft, and the Labour of Mind in Britain, 1830-1940 (Edinburgh University Press, January 2023), discusses writers who defended the value of literary endeavour by redescribing it as an artisanal labour, or a craft. A related publication (co-edited with Claire White) – The Labour of Literature in Britain and France, 1830-1910: Work-Ethics (2018)) – demonstrates a two-way traffic between British and French conceptions of literary labour, and in the process contests the received view of France as the source exclusively of a ‘leisure ethic’.

Pursuing a different aspect of authorship, Thinking through Style (2018) (co-edited with Michael Hurley) challenges influential models of thought as primary and pre-verbal, and style as ornamental. These collected essays propose instead that style has a capacity to shape, refine, and generate ideas.

  • Arts and Crafts thinkers, including related literary, museological, and practical contexts

My interest in the Arts and Crafts movement runs back to my early research, notably an online project to reconstruct the appearance of Ruskin’s museum for Sheffield artisans (, and my first monograph, William Morris’s Utopia of Strangers: Victorian Medievalism and the Ideal of Hospitality (2006). That book explored Victorian interest in the treatment of strangers in the light of literary, architectural, and political, efforts to define the limits of a good society. I have also disseminated my findings on Radio 4’s In Our Time; and through art journalism, most notably a cover issue of Apollo Magazine to mark the Ruskin bicentenary in 2019. My most recent contribution in this area has been editing The Cambridge Companion to William Morris (2024).

I have expanded the scope of these interests through collaboration and co-authorship with the letter cutter Lida Lopes Cardozo Kindersley (MBE): The Ins and Outs of Public Lettering (2020) and Words Made Stone: The Craft and Philosphy of Letter Cutting (2022). 

  • Modernist poetry, esp. Victorian influences and legal contexts

My other publications explore Victorian influences on modernist poetry, a genre more usually defined against such legacies. I have published a number of articles on the late modernist poetry of Geoffrey Hill, as well as on William Empson, and most recently a chapter on Ezra Pound (in The Work of Works). My article ‘Empson’s Legal Fiction’ (2012) witnesses a convergence of these interests, in that it prompted Hill’s analysis of Empson’s legacies in his March 2013 Oxford Professor of Poetry lecture.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

Prof. Waithe is interested in supervising graduates in the following areas: Victorian moralists (esp. Carlyle, Ruskin, Morris); aestheticism; medievalism; literary and intellectual labour; work and craftsmanship; Utopianism; relations between Victorian literature and the visual arts or architecture; letter forms and typography; Victorian cultural institutions (especially museums); the poetry and criticism of Geoffrey Hill.

Selected Publications


i) Scholarly Monographs

(ii) Edited Critical Volumes

(iii) Crossover Books

(iv) Pamphlets




  • 'Required Reading: review of Charlotte Ribeyrol (with Tea Ghigo)'s William Burges's Great Bookcase', Apollo Magazine, July/August 2023, 94-96
  • 'Client's View', in Harriet Jennings, 'From Modern to Timeless: Níall McLaughlin's Magdalene College Library', Architects' Journal, 3 May 2022
  • 'Head to Head' forum, History Today, vol. 72, Issue 4 (April 2022)
  • Cover feature on Ruskin Bicentenary 2019, 'An Eye to the Future?', Apollo Magazine, February 2019, pp. 52-8
  • Review of Gerhard Munthe: Norwegian Pioneer of Modernism, Apollo Magazine, November 2018, pp. 116-117.
  • Feature on the re-opening of Emery Walker House, Hammersmith, Apollo Magazine, 18 May 2017 (online content)
  • 'The "old house by the Thames" that inspired William Morris', Apollo Magazine, 7 September 2016 (online content)
  • 'Accidental Affinities', review of A. S. Byatt's Peacock & Vine: Fortunty and Morris in Life and at Work, Apollo Magazine, September 2016, p. 119
  • Review of Giles Waterfield, The People's Galleries: Art Museums and Exhibitions in Britain, 1800-1914, Apollo Magazine, January 2016
  • Review of Sarah Quill's Ruskin's Venice: The Stones Revisited and Ken and Jenny Jacobson's Carrying off the Palaces: John Ruskin's Lost Daguerreotypes, Apollo Magazine, May 2015, pp. 106-7
  • '"Dense Settling": Geoffrey Hill's Broken Hierarchies', P.N. Review, 219 (September-October 2014) (review of Geoffrey HIll, Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952-2012, ed. Kenneth Haynes (OUP, 2013)
  • Review of Tony Pinkney, ed., We Met Morris: Interviews with William Morris, 1885-1896The Times Literary Supplement, 14 October 2005, p. 34
  • Review of Thomas J. Tobin, ed., Worldwide Pre-Raphaelitism, in The Times Literary Supplement, 11 March 2005, p. 29
  • 'Angry and Engaged', review of Michael Hamburger's Wild and Wounded and August Kleinzahler's The Strange Hours Travelers Keep, P. N. Review, 31 (January-February, 2005), 3, 85-86
  • 'Housman Country', review of Bromsgrove PoetsP. N. Review, 31 (September-October, 2004), 1, 93-94
  • Review of David Clifford and Laurence Roussillon, eds, Outsiders Looking In: The Rossettis Then and NowThe Times Literary Supplement, 2 July 2004, p. 24