Alexander Hobday, King's

Degree: PhD
Course: 18CR
Supervisor: Dr Chris Tilmouth
Dissertation Title:

 Imagining Happiness.

Biographical Information

I studied at the University of York for my BA, with a dissertation on W.B. Yeats's idealism and politics. After spending two years out of academia, working in social services and walking the Camino de Santiago among other things, I began studying an MPhil at King's college, Cambridge. My dissertation focused on William Wordsworth, exploring the tension between the desire to give feeling shape through poetry but also to keep feeling a secret for oneself. I have stayed on at King's for my AHRC-funded PhD, provisionally entitled Imagining Happiness. Focusing on the second half of the eighteenth century, the thesis explores what it argues to be the twin phenomena of a society increasingly obsessed with happiness as the ends of existence and the rise of the imagination as a fundamental concept of artistic creation, cognition, and in medical discourses surrounding melancholy and madness. The thesis will also put pressure on the conventional depiction of the eighteenth century as an epoch in which happiness is increasingly seen as an inner mental state. In reading happiness and the imagination together in the works of James Boswell, Laurence Sterne, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Wordsworth, my PhD scrutinizes the extent to which eighteenth-century writers accepted or resisted the division, characteristic of modernity, between interior and exterior, mind and world. 

Research Interests

Imagination, aesthetics, happiness, melancholy, empirical psychology, subjectivity, autobiography, travel writing, philosophy of mind, science and literature.


Areas of Supervision

I am available to offer supervision on: Paper 6: English iterature and its contexts 1660-1670; Practical Criticism and Critical Practice. I have experience supervising across a range of topics for Paper 6.

Additionally, on behalf of my college I have offered study skills support to students across numerous academic disciplines for the past four years. I take a holistic view of learning and am passionate about helping students to mould themselves into highly effective readers, writers and self-organizers. My approach to teaching is shaped by my interest in recent research into effective teaching/studying methodologies. 

I have taught widely in English literature for the Eton College Universities Summer School, a ten day residential course which aims to introduce high-acheiving sixth form students from the maintained school sector to the academic study of English. I have devised and taught lessons on topics including: 'The Wife of Bath' and Medieval Literature; Eighteenth-century satire; practical criticism; poetic form; The Waste Land and Modern Poetry. The course involves both large and small group teaching. 


Selected Publications

 Conference Papers

'Boswell: Scepticism and Happiness'. British Society for Eighteenth-century Studies Annual Conference, St Hugh's College Oxford, 2019

'“be-virtu’d,— be-pictur’d,— be-butterflied”: Hobby-Horses and Situated Cognition in Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy’. Happiness: Enlightenment to Present Conference, King's College, Cambridge, 2020. 

Conference Organizer

Happiness: Enlightenment to Present. A two-day joint AHRC/King's funded conference held at King's College, Cambridge in October 2019.