Professor Michael Whitworth

Tutor in English Literature, Professor of Modern Literature and Culture

I am interested in modernism and modernist writers, particularly in relation to their intellectual, social, and literary contexts.

I am currently editing Woolf's Night and Day for the Cambridge edition of her works. When this work is complete, I will be returning to a project on the use of scientific discourse by poets of the 1920s and 30s including William Empson, Michael Roberts, C Day Lewis, Herbert Read, and Hugh MacDiarmid.


In Merton I teach the Prelims papers Literature 1830-1910 and Literature 1910-present, and the 'Approaches to Literature' side of paper 1 (Introduction to Language and Literature). In teaching the period papers I aim to give students a wide range of choice over the texts and essay questions, while also offering guidance and a coherent framework. At final-year level under the old syllabus I taught the papers on Virginia Woolf and Joseph Conrad, and supervised essays on various aspects of modernist and later 20th-century poetry and fiction, and I will continue to supervise dissertations in this area. For the English Faculty I give lecture series on Woolf, modernist poetry, and theories of modernism; I look forward to participating in the paper 6 option in Literature and Science. I also teach on the MSt Post-1900 course, where I offer a 'C'-course on Late Modernist Poetry in Britain and America, and classes for the 'B'-course (History of the Book).


My first book, Einstein's Wake: Relativity, Metaphor and Modernist Literature (OUP, 2001) explored different ways of relating modernist literary form to the new physics, and considered metaphor in both its expository and cognitive roles. Virginia Woolf (OUP, 2005) related Woolf's fiction to its social and intellectual contexts. I edited a collection of essays, Modernism (Blackwell, 2007), which presents a range of critical perspectives on the literary movement, and have recently completed a book, Reading Modernist Poetry (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), which aims to equip readers to read sometimes difficult poems for themselves. I also have interests in the publishing history of literary and popular scientific texts, most recently seen in my chapter for The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines, ed. Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker (OUP, 2009).