Giles Whiteley


Room: E834

My research focuses on comparative literature in English, with emphasis on rereading nineteenth-century British literature, as well as reconsidering the philosophical importance and implications of these literary traditions. Within this area, I have a particular interest in the aesthetic and decadent movement, and in their antecedents in Romanticism and afterlives in modernism.

In my most recent book on The Aesthetics of Space in Nineteenth Century British Literature, 1843-1907 (Edinburgh University Press, 2020), I discuss the way in which ‘aesthetic’ writers of the nineteenth century engage with space, particularly – although not exclusively – metropolitan space, differentiating between the tropes of theoria and aisthesis in the work of John Ruskin, and following this tradition through Charles Dickens, Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde and Henry James. This work builds on my earlier focus on aestheticism, which produced two monographs, Aestheticism and the Philosophy of Death (2010) and Oscar Wilde and the Simulacrum (2015), which took seriously Pater's and Wilde's contributions to literary and intellectual history respectively, arguing for the importance of recognising the two as philosophers in their own rights.

This interest in nineteenth-century philosophical traditions also motivated my recent book on Schelling’s Reception in Nineteenth Century British Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), which focused on the literary reception of the German philosopher during the long-nineteenth century. Beginning with the Romantics and ending with the early modernists, the book discusses a relatively repressed narrative of literary history which spans the entire century and takes in the discourses of literature, philosophy, theology and science. It shows the ways in which Schelling operates as an uncanny spectre underwriting the received narratives of how we have traditionally read the nineteenth century. More work on nineteenth century literature and philosophy is forthcoming, and I am the general editor of a multi-volume series on Literature and Philosophy in Nineteenth-Century Culture for Routledge.

Currently, I am working on two large-scale projects. The first is a scholarly edition of Pater’s great late nineteenth-century historical novel, Marius the Epicurean, which will appear as volume two of the new Collected Works of Walter Pater to be published by Oxford University Press. The second is a book on Humour and Culture in the Nineteenth Century, under contract with Routledge, which will offer a history of the ways in which humour develops across the period in literary and cultural traditions in Europe and America, and the ways in which these developments in humour respond to contemporary historical moments. In addition, I have recently been writing about aesthetic and decadent gothic literature, on issues surrounding late style in Victorian literature (Dickens, Eliot, James), and on decadent space in the literature of the late 1880s and 1890s, particularly as it appears in non-canonically decadent authors (Hardy, Conrad).

More broadly, I am interested in comparative literary traditions, in classical reception, in philosophy, psychoanalysis, and humour theory. In addition to my focus on late nineteenth-century literature, I have also  published on figures including Shakespeare, Pope, Addison, Coleridge, De Quincey, Southey, Carlyle, Arnold, Mansfield, Woolf and Joyce, as well as on French writers including Huysmans, Proust and Blanchot.

Selected Publications

The following is not exhaustive. For a full list of recent publications, see DiVA.

Humour and Culture in the Nineteenth Century (under contract with Routledge, 2022).

The Aesthetics of Space in Nineteenth-Century British Literature, 1843-1907 (Edinburgh University Press, 2020).

Schelling’s Reception in Nineteenth-Century British Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).

Oscar Wilde and the Simulacrum: the Truth of Masks (Legenda, 2015).

Aestheticism and the Philosophy of Death: Walter Pater and Post-Hegelianism (Legenda, 2010).

Scholarly editions:

Walter Pater, Marius the Epicurean, volume 2 of The Collected Works of Walter Pater (under contract with Oxford University Press, 2024).

Henry Longueville Mansel's Phrontisterion (1852), Victorian Literature  and Culture, 46:2 (2018): 485-514.

Edited volumes:

General editor, Literature and Philosophy in Nineteenth Century Culture, 3 vols. (under contract with Routledge 2022).

Articles and Chapters:

"'Muttered thunder": A Miltonism in Little Dorrit and The Mystery of Edwin Drood', Dickens Quarterly 38:1 (forthcoming, 2021).

‘Romantic Irony: Problems of Interpretation in Schlegel and Carlyle’, in The Palgrave Handbook of Humour, History, and Methodology, ed. Daniel Derrin and Hannah Burrows (forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillan, 2021).

‘Tigers, Criminals, Rogues: Animality in Dickens’ Detective Fiction’, in Animals in Detective Fiction, ed. John Miller and Ruth Hawthorne (forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillan, 2021).

‘Mr. Beoerly or Mr. Beverley? A Variant Reading of Joyce’s “Drama and Life”’, James Joyce Quarterly 57:3-4 (2020): 823-27.

‘Three French Modernists’, in The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic, ed. Clive Bloom (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), 1093-1108.

‘The Crowing Cocks in Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”’, Notes and Queries 67:1 (2020): 127-31.

‘“A Memnon waiting for the day”: Ancient Egypt in Aestheticism and Decadence’, in Victorian literary culture and ancient Egypt, ed. Ellie Dobson (Manchester University Press, 2020), 139-61.

‘Shakespeare’s Dark Ecologies: Rethinking the Environment in Macbeth and King Lear’, in Shakespeare’s Things, ed. Brett Gamboa and Lawrence Switzky (Routledge, 2019), 134-49.

‘Robert Southey, Thomas Lindley and the “Zombi”’, The Wordsworth Circle, 48:3 (2017): 164-68.

‘The Tree of Knowledge: New Insights on Katherine Mansfield, Oscar Wilde and “A Woman”’, in Katherine Mansfield and Russia, ed. Gerri Kimber and Galya Diment (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), 175-89.

‘Pater’s Heraclitus: Irony and the Historical Method’, in Pater the Classicist, ed. Stefano Evangelista, Charles Martindale and Elisabeth Prettlejohn (Oxford University Press, 2017), 261-73.