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English and Creative Writing

Photo of Professor John Plunkett

Professor John Plunkett

Associate Professor


01392 724287


My office hours for 2023/24 can be booked using the link below.  My office is Queens 311, but if you would prefer to meet over Teams do let me know. 


My research is mainly in Victorian media and I have a particular interest in the popular visual shows and media that so fascinated audiences during the nineteenth-century. The forms and devices I am fascinated by include panoramas, dioramas, 3-D photography, peepshows, magic lantern, kaleidoscopes and transparencies. I have held grants from the AHRC, Leverhulme Trust and Yale Centre for British Art to support my research. Much of my work at Exeter draws on the rich resources of the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, a public museum and research centre that contains over 65,000 items covering the long history of the moving-image. More broadly, I am interested in the way that new communications and technologies during the Victorian period have links to contemporary culture and digital media. As well as visual shows and devices, I have published broadly on nineteenth-century print media, journalism and popular culture.

I am a member of the Centre for Victorian Studies at Exeter, which brings together the large number fo researchers we have working in the area. Follow our Twitter account for the latest Victorian news. I am also dedicated to encouraging Public Engagement and have been, or am, involved with collaborative events with Kensignton Palace, RAMM, Ilfracombe Museum and the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.  

Animated Gif of 19th c Phenakistoscope from Richard Balzer Collection

Newly Digitized ‘Phenakistoscope’ Animations That Pre-Date GIFs by Over 150 Years | Colossal

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My main research interests are print and visual media between 1800-1910. I'm especially interested in popular fiction, optical devices and shows, new technologies, the periodical press, and journalism and book history. My first book, Queen Victoria - First Media Monarch was published by Oxford University Press in 2003. It examined the influence of the development of popular media upon the character of the British monarchy. I continued my work on print media through two co-edited collections with Professor Andrew King (University of Greenwich). The first of these is a three-volume reference set, Popular Print Media 1820-1900, was published by Routledge in 2004. The se cond, Victoria Print Media: A Reader was published by Oxford University Press in 2005. In collaboration with a number of Victorianist colleagues at Exeter, I was lead editor on the multi-authored Palgrave Sourcebook to Victorian Literature (Palgrave, 2011).

My current work is on nineteenth-century moving projected and 3D images, and examines panoramas, dioramas, peepshows, stereoscopy and the magic lantern, as well as a host of other optical devices and shows. I have published a number of articles and chapters in this area. In 2007, I published Multimedia Histories: From the Magic Lantern to the Internet (2007), a co-edited collection of essays with James Lyons, on the history of new media and the way nineteenth-century visual technologies related to contemporary media. In 2008, my colleague, Joe Kember, and myself were awarded £204,000 from the AHRC for a research project, Moving and Projected-Image Exhibition in the South-West 1820-1914. This project mapped the exhibition of visual shows in a number of selected south-west locations between 1820 and 1914. One output from the project is the volume, Popular Exhibitions, Science and Showmanship 1820-1910 (Pickering and Chatto, 2012), which was co-edited with Joe Kember and Jill Sullivan. We also have a multi-authored book forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2021, Picture Going: Visual Shows 1820-1914.

I was also scholarly editor for a digital resource published by Adam Matthews in 2012, based on the archives of the Bill Douglas Museum, entitled 'Moving Pictures, Optical Entertainments and the Advent of the Cinema'. It consists of 35,000 images drawn from items in the Bill Douglas Collection. Click here for details,

With the completion of Picture Going, I am working on a second book made up of case studies of individual optical media, particularly the peepshow and stereoscope. I am interested in the global circulation of the peepshow and its presence in Europe, China, India, Iran and Egypt.    

I'm interested in supervising research students in any of the above areas.

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I am interested in supervising students in most areas of Victorian literature, media and culture (see list of PhD students for current projects supervised). 

I am particularly interested in supervising projects on print media (in any area), shows and exhibitions, visual culture, media and technology, and popular fiction.

Previous PhD students who have gone on to publish their theses include:

Alice Barnaby, Light Touches: Cultural Practices of Illumination, 1800-1900 (Routledge, 2016)

Andrew Griffiths, The New Journalism, the New Imperialism and the Fiction of Empire, 1870-1900 (Palgrave, 2015) 

Matt Hayler, Challenging the Phenomena of Technology (Palgrave 2015)

Research students

I am currently supervisor for a number of research students; I am currently first/joint supervisor for:

  • Tamara Kaminsky, 'Constructing Conversations: Tracing the formation of the celebrity interview and its cultivation in the Nineteenth Century Popular British Imagination.'
  • Isabel Alexander, 'A History of Immersive Media 1800-1900' 
  • Lucy Foster, 'Knowing Your Space'
  • Peter Bryden, 'Applicants for Admission - the Social Realists Reappraised'
  • Yousef Alshammari, 'Social Reforming and Imperialism: A Decolonial Study of Charles Dickens, Tawfiq Al-Hakim, Abdulrahman Al-Sharqawi and Yusuf Idris'

I am second supervisor for:

Previous completed students:

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Copyright Notice: Any articles made available for download are for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the copyright holder.

| 2022 | 2020 | 2019 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2003 | 2001 |


  • Plunkett J, Hadjiafxendi K. (2022) Play, Craft, Design, Feel: Engaging Students and the Public with Victorian Culture, Victorian Culture and Experiential Learning Historical Encounters in the Classroom, Palgrave Macmillan, 101-122.
  • Brooker J, Dixon B, Plunkett J. (2022) Queen Victoria at the Pictures, 19 Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, volume 2022, no. 33, DOI:10.16995/ntn.8187.


  • Plunkett J. (2020) Of death and dominion, Ruler Personality Cults from Empires to Nation-States and Beyond, Routledge, 79-103, DOI:10.4324/9780429275432-6. [PDF]
  • Hopkins E. (2020) Postal Bodies: Imagining Communication Infrastructures in Nineteenth-Century Literature.



  • Plunkett J. (2017) The Overland Mail, Commodities and Culture in the Colonial World, Routledge, 43-57, DOI:10.4324/9781315111766-4. [PDF]
  • Plunkett J. (2017) Regicide and Reginamania: G.W.M. Reynolds and the Mysteries of London, Victorian Crime, Madness and Sensation, 15-30.
  • Plunkett J. (2017) The Overland Mail: Moving panoramas and the imagining of trade and communication networks, Commodities and Culture in the Colonial World, 43-57, DOI:10.4324/9781315111766.
  • Plunkett JS. (2017) The Overland Mail: Moving panoramas and the imagining of trade and communication networks, Commodities and Culture in the Colonial World, Routledge, 58-74.






  • Plunkett, J, Sullivan, J, Kember, J. (2012) Popular Exhibitions, Science and Showmanship 1840-1910, Pickering and Chatto. [PDF]



  • Kember J, Plunkett J, Sullivan J. (2010) What is an exhibition culture?, EARLY POPULAR VISUAL CULTURE, volume 8, no. 4, pages 347-350, article no. PII 928350322, DOI:10.1080/17460654.2010.518820. [PDF]
  • Plunkett J. (2010) 'Visual Culture', The Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1830-1914, Cambridge Univ Pr, 222-248.



  • Plunkett J. (2008) From Optical to Digital (and back again), 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, volume 0, no. 6, DOI:10.16995/ntn.479. [PDF]
  • Plunkett JS. (2008) "Selling Stereoscopy 1890-1914: penny arcades, automatic machines and American salesmen", Early Popular Visual Culture, volume 6.3, pages 239-255, article no. 2.
  • Plunkett JS. (2008) 'From Optical to Digital (and back again)', 19: Interdiscplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth-Century, volume 1.6, no. Forum on Digitisation and Materiality, pages 1-10.


  • Plunkett JS, Vadvillo A. (2007) The Railway Passenger; or, The Training of the Eye, Railway and Modernity : Time, Space and the Machine Ensemble, Peter Lang, 45-67.
  • Lyons, J.. (2007) Multimedia Histories: From the Magic Lantern to the Internet, University of Exeter Press.
  • Plunkett JS, Lyons J. (2007) Depth, Colour, Movement: Embodied Vision and the Stereoscope, Multimedia Histories: From the Magic Lantern to the Internet, University of Exeter Press, 117-131.
  • Plunkett JS. (2007) 'Moving Books/Moving Images: Optical Recreations and Children's Publishing 1800-1900', 19: Interdiscplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth-Century, volume vol 1. no 5, pages 1-27, article no. 4.
  • Plunkett JS. (2007) “Nineteenth-Century Optical Recreations and Teaching New Media", Media Encounters and Media Theories, Nodus Publikationen, 279-293.



  • Plunkett J. (2005) Civic Publicness: The Creation of Queen Victoria’s Royal Role 1837–61, Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture, 11-28, DOI:10.1057/9780230522565_2.
  • Plunkett J. (2005) Civic Publicness, Encounters in the Victorian Press, Palgrave Macmillan UK, 11-28, DOI:10.1057/9780230522565_2. [PDF]
  • Plunkett, J.. (2005) Transparencies, optical recreations and the invention of the screen, Visual Delights II, John Libbey, 175-193.
  • Plunkett JS. (2005) Optical Recreations in Victorian Literature, Literature and the Visual Media, Boydell & Brewer, 1-28.
  • Plunkett JS, A. King. (2005) Victorian Print Media: A Reader, Oxford University Press.



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External impact and engagement

I am deeply committed to encouraging Public Engagement in universities and have been involved in a number of project promoting public engagement and impact. In 2013, I was one of four Champions for Public Engagement withing the university. 

  • I supervise 2 Collaborative Doctoral Awards with external partners, one with Historic Royal Palaces on 'Queen Victoria's Library' (2021-4) and one on 'A History of Immersive Media 1800-1900' with the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.
  • In 2019-20, I hosted an Arts and Culture Fellow at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, the choreographer Lea Anderson. A video of the Fellowship can be seen here.
  • In 2019, I contributed to a BFI MOOC on early cinema.
  • In 2018-19, I was part of an AHRC network with Kensington Palace, Fashioning Victoria: curating the royal image for dynasty, nation and empire.
  • From 2013-15, I worked on a project 'Science at the Seaside; Pleasure Hunts in North Devon' with Ilfracombe Museum and Dr Kyriaki Hadjiafxendi (Bath Spa University), exploring the popularity of natural history and the north Devon coast in the mid 19th C, through figures such as Charles Kingsley, Philip H Gosse and George Eliot. 

Previously, I have been involved with collaborative events with the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, and the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.  In 2012, I was involved in a collaboration with the BFI, making a short film on Dickens and the Magic Lantern, As part of the AHRC funded project on popular visual entertainments in the south-west 1800-1914, we put on a free touring exhibited that visited a number of public libraries in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset in in 2011-12.

Contribution to discipline

I have contribued to the discipline in a number of ways. From 2006-12, I served as Treasurer of the British Association for Victorian Studies. I have also served as external examiner for BA programmes at Roehampton, MA in Victorian Culture at Royal Holloway, and examined PhDs at Birkbeck College and the Courtauld Institute.  

I serve on the editorial board, 19: Interdiscplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century and the Journal of Victorian Culture. I also regularly review manuscripts for publishers and journals, including Early Popular Visual Culture, Victorian Studies, Nineteenth Century Contexts, History: Journal of the Historical Association, Oxford University Press, Broadview Press, Ashgate, Open University Press, Rethinking History: the Journal of Theory and Practice, McGraw-Hill, Journal of Design History, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the long Nineteenth Century.

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My teaching draws heavily on my research in Victorian material and print culture; one of the benefits of teaching at Exeter is that we have enormously rich resources for teaching using original periodicals, journals and artefacts. My teaching on Dickens thus includes sessions analysing Household Words and All the Year Round, exploring his role as editor and journalist. Similarly, when teaching on the Victorian Studies MA pathway, we have sessions exploring new technologies and optical devices using the resources of the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum; students enjoy hands-on experience looking at original kaleidoscopes, stereoscopes and handbills for popular shows.

Modules taught

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