Professor Joseph Phelan

Job: Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Humanities

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, UK, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 207 8265




Personal profile

Professor Phelan graduated from King's College Cambridge, and obtained his MA and PhD at King's College London.  He has held posts at a number of UK universities, including a four-year Junior Research Fellowship at Christ Church Oxford.

His research focuses on the literature and culture of the nineteenth century. He is co-editor (with Professors John Woolford and Daniel Karlin) of the Longman Annotated English Poets series The Poems of Robert Browning, volume 4 of which appeared in 2012.  He is also the editor of the Journal of Browning Studies (formerly Browning Society Notes), an annual journal devoted to the lives and work of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  Other publications include The Music of Verse: Metrical Experiment in Nineteenth-Century Poetry (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2012), The Nineteenth-Century Sonnet (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2005), which was named as an ‘Outstanding Academic Title’ by Choice magazine, and Clough: Selected Poems (Longman, 1995). Dr Phelan is a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement.

Professor Phelan would be interested in supervising postgraduate work on most aspects of nineteenth-century poetry, and on Anglo-French and Anglo-Italian literary and cultural relations during the period.

Research interests/expertise

Nineteenth-century literature, especially the poetry of Robert Browning and Arthur Hugh Clough; poetic form; Anglo-Italian and Anglo-French literary and cultural relations.

Areas of teaching

Victorian Literature, Romantic Literature, Poetry, Colonial and Postcolonial Writing


MA (Cantab.), MA (London), PhD (London)

Courses taught

ENGL 1010 Poetry and Society, ENGL 2021 Romantic and Victorian Literature

Honours and awards

Outstanding Academic Title 2006 for The Nineteenth-Century Sonnet: awarded by Choice Magazine (the journal of the American Libraries Association)

Membership of external committees

I am a member of the committee of the Browning Society.

Membership of professional associations and societies

Member, AHRC Peer Review College (Jan. 2010 – Jan. 2013).

Conference attendance

Nov. 2012 ‘Browning and His Contemporaries’: invited plenary lecture for conference to commemorate two-hundredth anniversary of Browning’s birth to be held at Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, Texas (Nov 1-3).

Sept. 2012 ‘”Sonnets from the Italian”: Felicia Hemans and the English Sonnet’: invited talk for the Fondazione Michel de Montaigne, Bagni di Lucca, Italy.

Sept 2011:   ‘Arthur Hugh Clough and the Roman Republic of 1849’: invited talk for the Fondazione Michel de Montaigne, Bagni di Lucca, Italy (9 Sept).

July 2010 Poetic Apostasy: Southey’s A Vision of Judgment and Vincenzo Monti’s In Morte di Ugo Bass-Ville’, Robert Southey, Nottingham/Loughborough Universities.

June 2010 ‘Composition, Intention and Revision: The Choice of Copy-Text in the Longman Poems of Robert Browning. Works in Progress, DMU.

July 2008  ‘“The old couplet of the Skalds”: Alliteration in Longfellow’s Evangeline’, Metre Matters, Exeter University (Invited).

April 2008 ‘The DMU Survey of Undergraduate Attitudes to Postgraduate Study’, The Future of the M.A., English Subject Centre Conference held at DMU.

Feb. 2008 ‘“Here lies Browning”: Fragments and Fugitive Pieces in Volume 3 of the Longman Poems of Browning, Leicester University Victorian Studies Seminar series (Invited).

Other forms of public presentation

March 2012: ‘“Memorabilia”: Robert Browning and Literary Celebrity’: invited lecture for the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society (5 March).

May 2008 ‘Volume 3 of the Longman Poems of Browning’, Eton College (Invited; annual lecture to the Browning Society).

May 2008:  Participation in public ceremony to unveil a plaque to the Brownings in Bagni di Lucca, Italy: paper presented (in Italian): ‘“Il santuario nella foresta”: Bagni di Lucca e “By the Fire-Side”’.

Feb 2010:  ‘Clough and the Brownings’: paper given at a symposium to commemorate the unveiling of a blue plaque to Arthur Hugh Clough at Dr Williams’s Library, London.

Consultancy work

I have been consulted by external organisations (Disney Book Corporation, the BBC) about matters relating to the Brownings, and have advised individuals and commercial organisations (such as auction houses) on the authenticity of specific items of memorabilia.

Current research students

  • Gemma Palmer (1st supervisor)
  • Maija Kuharenoka (1st supervisor)
  • Susan Ibrahim (1st supervisor)
  • Lyndsey Worthington (2nd supervisor)

Externally funded research grants information

Co-Investigator, The Brownings’ Correspondence 1854-56.  AHRC Research Grant (£520000). Start date: September 2006. End date: August 2009. With Professor Peter Shillingsburg, Scott Lewis, and Wedgestone Press.

Internally funded research project information

June 2008: RITF £1000 to visit Morgan Library, New York in June 2008 in connection with preparation of Longman Browning: Selected Poems (publ. Feb. 2010).

January—June 2010: Faculty research leave to complete monograph, The Music of Verse: Metrical Experiment in Nineteenth-Century Poetry (under contract with Palgrave Macmillan for publication 2011).

Professional esteem indicators

Editor, Journal of Browning Studies (formerly Browning Society Notes): from 2007.

Other Reviewing Activities:

Valentine Cunningham, Victorian Poetry Now, TLS,
Marianne Van Remoortel, Lives of the Sonnet, TLS, 16 Dec. 2011
Julia Straub, A Victorian Muse, Victorian Studies 54.1 (Fall 2011)
Nigel Leask, Robert Burns and Pastoral, TLS, 17 Dec. 2010
Sandra Donaldson et al., The Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, TLS, 14 July 2010
Robert Waldron, The Secret Dublin Diary of Gerard Manley Hopkins, 9 April 2010
Bruce Wathen, Sir Francis Drake: The Construction of a Hero, TLS, July 2009
Patrick Brantlinger, Victorian Literature and Postcolonial Studies, TLS, May 2009
Robert Crawford, The Bard: Robert Burns, A Biography, TLS, 14 Jan 2009
Peter Swaab ed., Sara Coleridge, Collected Poems, TLS, 18 April 2008
Linda Kelly, Ireland’s Minstrel, TLS, 18 January 2008
Simon Dentith, Epic and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Literature and History, 17:1 (2008), 94-5

Case studies

I have been invited to speak at public events on Clough and Browning associated with the unveiling of public memorials to the poets in London and Italy, and participated in a public commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy in Bagni di Lucca in September 2011.

Joe Phelan

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