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Prof John Mullan
Prof John Mullan profile picture
  • Professor of English Literature
  • Dept of English Lang & Literature
  • Faculty of Arts & Humanities

    I studied for a BA in English at King's College Cambridge. After graduating I taught for a year in Pentonville Prison before returning to King's to work on a PhD about the cult of sentimentalism in eighteenth-century writing, particularly novels. I finished this in 1984, when I became a Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge. In 1987, after a term teaching at what was then Queen Mary College, London, I became a Lecturer at Fitzwilliam College Cambridge, where I remained for the next seven years. In 1988 my first book, Sentiment and Sociability. The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century was published by Oxford University Press.

    In 1994 I moved to UCL, where I have been ever since. I continued to specialise in eighteenth-century literature, editing works by Daniel Defoe and Samuel Johnson, and putting together the annotated anthology Eighteenth-Century Popular Culture with Chris Reid from Queen Mary College. Working in London began to involve me in literary journalism and in broadcasting. I began writing for the Guardian, and eventually conducting the newspaper's monthly Book Club. This involved interviewing a leading writer before an audience. I have also worked a good deal for BBC radio and TV.

    My book How Novels Work (OUP, 2006) combined the interest in contemporary fiction that I pursued in my literary journalism with my research into the development of the Novel in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 2007 I published Anonymity. A Secret History of English Literature (Faber and Faber), an account of the varieties of anonymous and pseudonymous literary publication, from the sixteenth century to the present day.

I have a continuing interest in the fiction of Jane Austen. My book What Matters in Jane Austen? (Bloomsbury, 2012), an exploration of Jane Austen's formal audacity and ingenuity, was published in 2012. I lecture widely on Austen's fiction outside academia, in the USA and Europe as well as the UK. I have edited Sense and Sensibility for Oxford World's Classics and have completed a new edition of Emma.

My most recent book is The Artful Dickens (Bloomsbury, 2020). It focuses on Charles Dickens's innovations in the art of fiction and his rebellion against the conventions of polite prose.

Research Summary

I am currently working on the eighteenth-century volume (1709-84) of the Oxford English Literary History.

Academic Background
1984   Doctor of Philosophy University of Cambridge
1980   Bachelor of Arts University of Cambridge
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