I was educated at the University of Oxford, graduating with a double first in English Language and Literature followed by a DPhil in eighteenth-century literature.
I took up a full-time teaching appointment at the University of Exeter in 1992 and wrote five books before taking up a visiting professorship at Stanford University and then moving to the University of Bristol.
At Bristol I established the Centre for Romantic Studies and worked with colleagues in immunology and public health and, as general editor, published work on sexuality, diet, and science in the period 1750-1850. While at Bristol I was made a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, and then returned to Exeter as a professor.
I founded ECLIPSE (the Exeter Centre for Literatures of Identity, Place, and Sustainability) and co-founded AARP (the Atlantic Archipelagos Research Project, now a consortium: AARC). Both ECLIPSE and AARC have influenced my work on intangible cultural heritage, published in The Seasons (shortlisted for the Katharine Briggs Folklore Award and runner-up for BBC Countryfile Book of the Year 2014).
Since then I have been awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship and a Lewis Walpole Fellowship to research the Gothic. My work on both intangible cultural heritage and the Gothic has led me to the cultures and environments of health, and I am currently writing a history of the Gothic as well as a forensic history of vampires. My anniversary edition of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein was published in 2018 by Oxford University Press.
The research I will be undertaking in the Centre
My first project is to assemble an interdisciplinary team to re-evaluate accounts of vampirism from the perspectives of social science, medicine, and theology, linking to ethical questions of vivisection, cross-species experimentation, transplantation, and inoculation, and more broadly to diet and wellbeing, trauma and anxiety, and mass delusion.
I am also investigating the relationship between intangible cultural heritage and wellbeing, particularly in small communities, coastal regions, and islands.
Something about me you can’t Google!
During my research into eighteenth and nineteenth-century attitudes to the body I acquired a Victorian biscuit barrel made out of a human skull; I don’t, however, use it for biscuits.