Robert Newton, Emmanuel

Degree: PhD
Course: 1830-PD
Supervisor: Dr Robert Macfarlane

Biographical Information

In 2015, I graduated from the University of St Andrews with first class honours; in 2017, I completed an MPhil in 18th Century and Romantic Studies at Cambridge. I am currently in the third year of a PhD at Emmanuel College, having been granted a Derek Brewer studentship.

Research Interests

The ecologically disruptive legacies of the Great Acceleration – a term for the intensification during the last seventy years of neo-colonial infrastructures and industries, and resulting planetary-scale changes – have drawn multiple forms of cultural response. In recent years, the term ‘Anthropocene’ has gained prominence as a catch-all for this time of geophysical alteration, social harm and ecological collapse. Practitioners in the arts and humanities, considering how fast-changing relations between humans and non-humans urge a re-appraisal of traditional ideas of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’, have worked to form a ‘new vocabulary for the Anthropocene’. Before scholarly and artistic enquiry crystallised around this new word, there were other forms of intellectual response to the uncertainties of violent ecological change.

My dissertation enquires into how recent critical and artistic approaches to the Anthropocene comprise a new and suggestive intellectual context through which to interpret such texts. Equally, might earlier responses to socioecologically harmful legacies of 20th century industrial society find critical and artistic purchase today? I aim to connect recent, multidisciplinary research in Anthropocene studies with a wide range of literary texts, from across Britain’s colonial geographies, that respond to the emergence, from the 1930s to the present day, of new industries, technologies and forms of experience. In particular, I focus on the entwined political, cultural and environmental histories of toxic and persistent materials, such as plastics, pesticides and radionuclides.

Areas of Supervision

I have experience teaching Practical Criticism, and also about literary and critical responses to contemporary socioecological conditions. I am supervising dissertations on polar regions in science fiction by women, and on birds as metaphors for human healing.

Selected Publications

Orwell’s Ersatz Englands’, Frank News, 13 January 2019.


‘Before Coming Back’, The Still Point, forthcoming.




‘Naum Gabo: Inherent Vice’ at Shorelines, Flotsam and Jetsam, Murray Edwards College, 19 July 2019.


I am a co-convenor of the forthcoming Climate Fictions / Indigenous Studies conference.