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Dr Simon Grimble

Associate Professor

Associate Professor in the Department of English Studies


I arrived in Durham in 2006, having previously, amongst other things, been a Junior Research Fellow in English at New Hall (now Murray Edwards College), Cambridge; I also had a temporary lectureship in 19th and 20th century English literature and intellectual history in Cambridge's English Faculty. I am the author of Landscape, Writing and ‘the Condition of England’: Ruskin to Modernism (2004) which analysed a line of non-fiction prose that developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in response both to an expanding urban market for writing about rural England, and to a sense that the experience of a changing, increasingly urbanised and industrialised, landscape provided a visible index to the state of the nation. I have also published an edited and annotated collection of accounts of the life and work of John Ruskin by his contemporaries, for Pickering & Chatto’s series of Lives of Victorian Literary Figures (2005).

I am interested in later twentieth century and contemporary versions of similar 'condition of England' investigations, and have published work on the writer Iain Sinclair and the film-maker Patrick Keiller. I have also written on Ford Madox Ford's editorials for the English Review, on 'the question of voice' in the writer and literary critic, Richard Hoggart and on ‘Englishness’ in T.S. Eliot. I am also interested in the writer and novelist, Edward Upward, and have published in a recent essay collection on him.

I am currently writing a book provisionally entitled The Politics of Style, which examines a series of moments in the history of ‘socially descriptive non-fictional writing’ (Richard Hoggart) since the mid-nineteenth century in order to establish how this type of writing has been part of attempts to bring about a democratic public sphere in British society for shared discussion and debate, even as those attempts have been felt by its participants to be fraught with difficulty. Some of the argument is demonstrated in an article on 'Intellectuals and the Politics of Style', International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society (2017)

I have the following general areas of research and teaching interest:

- writers as intellectuals / intellectuals as writers, since the 19th century in Britain

- 'Condition of England' writing (e.g. Carlyle, Dickens, Forster, Auden, Orwell, to contemporary writers such as Roy Fisher and Jonathan Coe) in all genres (non-fiction, poetry, the novel, drama), particularly in relation to questions of landscape and place

- Debates about equality and inequality since the French Revolution, and how they are enacted or elaborated in particular literary texts, in relation to intellectual history (Burke, Marx, Nietzsche, Tawney, Thomas Piketty etc). I teach a Special Topic to final-year undergraduates called A Society of Equals? Literature, Culture and Equality which examines these pressing issues.

- the history of literary criticism in Britain, in particular debates about 'the function of criticism' (Arnold, Eliot, Leavis to Edward Said)

- the history of writers as public speakers, through the form of the public lecture, in 19th and 20th century Britain and America (i.e. Emerson, Ruskin, Morris, Wilde, T.S. Eliot)

- the role of the 'expert' in contemporary society, and the need for this figure to become less of an expert and more of what the Scottish philosopher, George Davie, called a 'democratic intellect.' These ideas are developed in my online publication, 'Brexit and the Democratic Intellect'

- the character of contemporary British higher education, in relation to recent marketising reforms, and their effect on the lives of both students and academic staff

Finally, I am the departmental representative for the University and College Union: I am also a member of the Council for the Defence of British Universities (more information here


Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Other (Print)

Supervision students