Corpus Christi College Oxford

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Professor Valentine Cunningham

Valentine Cunningham

Senior Research Fellow in English


Professor Cunningham was an undergraduate student of English at Keble College, Oxford (1963-66), then a graduate student at Keble (1966-69) working on a doctorate on representations of religious Dissent in Victorian fiction, which he completed as Junior Research Fellow at St John's College, Oxford (1966-69). He came to Corpus as its second ever English Literature Fellow in 1972. He's been Dean, Senior Tutor, Tutor for Admissions, and Vice President of Corpus. He's served as a Special Lecturer of the Oxford English Faculty, and also as its Chair. He was made a titular Professor of English Language and Literature in 1996. He's been a Visiting Professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, at the German Universities of Freiburg, Göttingen, and Konstanz (several times from 1980 on; Ständiger Gastprofessor 1994-2002). He's also been Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Perth, Western Australia. Elected a Fellow of the Grossbritannien Zentrum/Centre for British Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin, 2013 He's lectured and given papers widely at universities in the UK and around the world (Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, Cyprus, Romania, Croatia, India, Brazil, Chile, Australia, Ghana, the USA, Canada). He reviews widely for newspapers and magazines, and broadcasts frequently for BBC Radio on particular authors and on literary, musicological and cultural-historical topics. He's a not infrequent judge of important literary prizes (for example, The Booker Prize, 1992, 1998; the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, 2000, 2001). He preaches occasional sermons, and plays the trumpet in various jazz combos, small, medium and large (and leads the Dark Blues Sextet). He gives his recreations in Who's Who as: reading bad novels, going to church, and playing and listening to jazz.

Research interests

He works widely across literary-historical-cultural periods, areas and genres, as well as in literary theory. He started off as a Victorianist with his doctorate on Dissent in Victorian Fiction (subject of his first book), and has continued to publish on Victorian novels, as well as editing the Blackwells Anthology of Victorian Poetry and Poetics. He edited Adam Bede for Oxford World Classics; he's just finished a monograph on Victorian Poetry; a Life of Dickens is in progress. He has a strong interest in fiction, especially more recent fiction, and as well as reviewing hundreds of new novels over the years has written much about 20thc novelists, including Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Iris Murdoch. A main research interest has been and is still in the literature of the 1930s, not least the writing of the Spanish Civil War. In more recent times he's published quite a lot on musico-literary topics, on Theology- and Bible-and-Literature, as well as in literary theory. His next book, after the Guide to King Lear, will be on Robinson Crusoe.

Teaching and Supervision

For Corpus undergraduates he mainly does tutorials and classes on the Victorians, the Twentieth Century, Shakespeare and assorted modern-ish authors and topics in fiction and theory. His Faculty lectures (two courses per academic year) are variously on the Victorians, the Twentieth Century, Theory, Bible, and assorted other things such as Emotion and Genre. He regularly lectures on Theory, and Politics and Literature, for the 20thc MPhil course, for which he also gives classes on Recent Fiction. He always has a handful of doctoral students, working on assorted modern literary/historical/cultural topics.

Some Main Publications

Everywhere Spoken Against: Dissent in the Victorian Novel (1975)
The Penguin Book of Spanish Civil War Verse (1980)
Spanish Front: Writers on the Civil War (1986)
British Writers of the Thirties (1988)
In the Reading Gaol: Postmodernity, Texts, and History (1994)
The Victorians: An Anthology of Poetry and Poetics (2000)
Reading After Theory (2002)
Victorian Poetry Now: Poets, Poems, Poetics (2011)
The Connell Guide to Shakespeare's King Lear (2012)


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