Dr Christopher Stokes
Dr Christopher Stokes is a Senior Lecturer in English at the Streatham Campus. He is the author of Romantic Prayer: Reinventing the Poetics of Devotion 1773-1830 (Oxford University Press, 2021) and Coleridge, Language and the Sublime (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), as well as many articles on Romantic poets in leading international journals, and the editor of the Selected Poems of Bernard Barton (Anthem Press, 2020). His current research is on occasionality and the informal occasional poem in the Romantic era, and Portugal and British Romanticism.
His research interests more generally include the intersection of poetry, religion and theology; subjectivity and embodiment in literature; and the history of aesthetics and philosophy more broadly in the Romantic era. His teaching spans across the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries.
My research has focused on poetry of the Romantic period, with a strong interest in various strains of philosophical and theological history.
I began as a Coleridgean, with my first monograph Coleridge, Language and the Sublime (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) attempting to trace a philosophically informed negotiation between the persistence of Romantic idealism, and its failures and withdrawals, across a wide range of his work. The book has been praised as an 'impressive, ranging, perceptive account...[taking] a subject that we throught we knew all about and discover[ing] something new to say about it' (Seamus Perry) and as work that 'one can only hope...will have a significant impact both within and beyond Coleridge scholarship' (Jonathan Murphy review in Romanticism 18.2).
My second monograph project, Romantic Prayer: Reinventing the Poetics of Devotion, 1773-1832 (Oxford University Press, 2021), is a multi-author study which shows the importance of poetry as a key cultural site for exploring the status of prayer at a critical juncture in histories of secularity and faith alike. Contextualised through an extensively researched archive of primary material (e.g. sermons, manuals, guides) on contemporary ideas of prayer, it covers a broad range of writers, from those attached polemically to specific Christian denominations (e.g. Cowper, Barbauld) to those engaged in a post-Christian or atheist interrogation of devotion (e.g. Keats, P.B. Shelley). It argues, ultimately, that no understanding of theism or atheism in literature of the period can afford to overlook the intertwining of poetic language with the language of prayer.
Most recently, I have worked on the Quaker poet, Bernard Barton. This project, which has yielded an article in the Review of English Studies and a Selected Poems, is interested in the broader question of how religious minorities enter, engage and modify the mainstream literary and aesthetic norms of their time: a question sharpened due to the historical opposition to non-didactic literature on the part of the Society of Friends.
I have just started a new, book-length project on occasionality and the informal occasional poem in the Romantic era, which aims to cover the aesthetic resources of this overlooked genre in both general terms (e.g. in relation to themes of sociability, temporality, materiality) and in terms of its specific presence within the ouevres of major poet such as William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Anna Seward and Anna Letitia Barbauld.
At the same time, I am pursuing research on Portugal in British Romanticism and Anglo-Portuguese cultural relations in the Romantic era, with particular reference (in its initial stages) to the Peninsular War.
I would be interested in supervising research students in any area of Romantic era writing (of any genre), or poetry from across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and would be particularly interested in taking on projects which have:
a) a focus on Samuel Taylor Coleridge
b) a focus on female-authored poetry and/or the depiction of childhood
c) a connection with philosophy, aesthetics or religion/theology
d) an interest in the self, subjectivity and/or the body
Please email to discuss any potential projects.
External impact and engagement
I was involved in the 2014 collaborative project "From a Cornish Window: Individual, Landscape, Community" (part of the nationwide AHRC-funded Being Human festival of the humanities) which aimed to use perspectives from literary studies and the humanities more generally to rethink relationships to space, place and environment (especially in Cornwall).
It involved an exhibition and trail at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro, creative workshops with local schools, and a series of public talks. At the RCM, I delivered a lecture on 'Landscape and Lyric', offering an alternative history of Romanticism through depictions of Cornwall.
Contribution to discipline
I was external examiner to the English BA programmes at the University of Chichester between 2016 and 2020, and am one of the current external examiners for English at the University of Warwick.
I enjoy teaching at undergraduate level immensely, and several pieces of my own research have some sort of beginning in conversations and discussions from the seminar room. I am a Fellow of the HEA, having completed the 'Aspire' scheme on joining Exeter, and have around fifteen years of experience across four separate institutions.
The most recent modules I have taught include Literature, Place, Encounter (a field course module on Italy in English Literature, including a field visit to Rome and Florence); Citizens of the World (a third-year module on travel and senses of the global in literature of the long eighteenth century) and Beginnings (a first-year foundation module covering literature from ancient myth to Shelley's Frankenstein).
I read my undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature at St. Peter's College, Oxford, and then took an interdisciplinary MA, in European Thought, at the Centre for European Studies, UCL. My D.Phil was carried out under the supervision of Professor Nicholas Royle at the University of Sussex, and completed in 2008.
I spent two years as a Teaching Fellow at the University of Exeter's Cornwall Campus, and two years as a lecturer at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. I rejoined Exeter's English department in September 2012.