Dr Michael J Sullivan

I completed my PhD at Trinity College, Cambridge, after studying for the MPhil in Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Studies, both funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Prior to my postgraduate research, I graduated from the University of Durham, where I was a Vice-Chancellor’s Scholar and winner of the T. W. Craik, Brooks Johnson, and J. R. Watson prizes, for the highest performance in the Shakespeare and overall Finals Examinations. I was educated at state schools in Yorkshire, and contribute to access, outreach, and public engagement for literature and the humanities.


Among my current projects is the first book-length study of Tennyson’s manuscript revisions, and their role in the development of his style. Its chapters examine how Tennyson’s notebooks record a series of profound shifts in the style of English verse and versification, stretching from the Romantics to the end of the nineteenth century. Uncovering new manuscripts from Cambridge, Lincoln, and Harvard, the monograph traces how literary modes – from the lyric to the epic – were altered on the page, as new movements modified the conventions of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Extensive archival research for this study was supported by a Rodney G. Dennis Visiting Fellowship in the Study of Manuscripts at the Houghton Library, Harvard, which gave me the resources to consult over 70 notebooks and 300 folders of Tennyson’s drafts and correspondence. Chapters arising from this research have been published in Essays in Criticism and Literary Imagination, and the resulting articles examine Tennyson’s selection of poems for The Golden Treasury (1861), the most influential lyric anthology of the nineteenth century. By considering the anthology’s fair copy alongside a rediscovered revision copy, the articles shed new light on Tennyson’s poetic influences, and on his aesthetic control over the formation of a Victorian literary canon.

Editions & Journal Special Issues

I am General Editor of The Complete Works of Alfred Tennyson for Oxford University Press, and have guest edited Special Issues of the Tennyson Research Bulletin (2020) and Victorian Poetry (2021). Since 2017, I have been an Executive Member of the Tennyson Society, and in 2019 I organised an international conference in Tennyson Studies at Christ Church, Oxford.

Articles and Future Projects

I hold additional research interests in the development of genre in the nineteenth century, and in Byron, Shelley, the Brontës, the Brownings, Arnold, Wordsworth, and Keats. My thematic research interests include the development of the verse novel, print and manuscript cultures since 1700, lyric studies and the musicality of verse, the role of lyric anthologies in canon creation and periodisation, the origins and legacies of ‘Romanticism’, the influence of sceptical philosophy and aesthetics on English verse, Anglo-American intersections, editing and textual criticism, and temporality in narrative verse.

Dissertations supervised include work on Elizabeth Siddal and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the manuscripts of Emily Dickinson, Hopkins’s religious orders, Keats and absence, and Tennyson and mourning.


I am Lecturer in Romantic and modern literature at St Catherine’s College and Wadham College, Oxford. I teach widely across literature in English since 1750, especially the Oxford papers in modern literature (1830-1910 and 1910-present), literary theory, and the finalists’ paper in Eighteenth-Century and Romantic literature (1760-1830). I have served on the Oxford Board of Examiners and for postgraduates teach for the Faculty’s MSt in the nineteenth century.


1. General Editor, The Complete Works of Alfred Tennyson, 9 volumes, Oxford University Press (under contract)

2. Revisionary Acts: Tennysons Artistry & Creative Process  (in preparation)

3. Transnational Verse Forms: The Making of Stanzas in Modern Poetics, Cambridge University Press (under contract)

Journal Special Issues

4. Guest Editor, Victorian Poetry, Special Issue on ‘Tennyson and the Poetic Imagination’, 59/2 (Summer 2021)

5. Guest Editor, Tennyson Research Bulletin, Special Issue, 11/4 (Winter 2020)

Journal Articles

6. ‘Wordsworth, Parody & the Authorship of “The Barberry-Tree”’, The Wordsworth Circle, 54/2 (2024) 

7. Sesta Rima as a Mode of Imitation: Hybrid Forms in Anglo-Italianate Verse’, Review of English Studies, 74/317 (2023)

8. ‘Wordsworth and the New School? A Newly Acquired Manuscript of “The Barberry-Tree”’, Christ Church Annual Record (2022)

9. ‘Tennyson and the Allegory of Art’, Victorian Poetry, 59/2 (Summer 2021)

10. ‘Error and Erasure in Ruskin’s and Tennyson’s Letters’, Tennyson Research Bulletin, 11/4 (2020)

11. ‘Tennyson, Obscured’, Tennyson Research Bulletin, 11/4 (2020)

12. ‘Alfred Tennyson and Frederick Goddard Tuckerman: An Omitted Page of Correspondence’, Notes & Queries, 64/1 (2017), 131-133

13. ‘Tennyson and The Golden Treasury’, Essays in Criticism, 66/4 (2016), 431-443

14. ‘Tennyson and The Golden Treasury: A Rediscovered Revision Copy’, Literary Imagination, 18/3 (2016), 230-238

15. ‘“The Controlless Core of Human Hearts”: Writing the Self in Byron’s Don Juan’, The Byron Journal, 42/2 (2014), 123-132

Reviews and Other Publications

16. ‘Dickinson’s Voice’, Essays in Criticism, 69/1 (2019), 103-109

17. ‘The Victorian Period (1830-1900)’, The Year’s Work in English Studies, 97/1 (2018), 693-888, co-authored

18. ‘The Victorian Period (1830-1900)’, The Year’s Work in English Studies, 96/1 (2017), 703-915, co-authored

19. ‘The Persistence of Beauty’, The Cambridge Quarterly, 45/4 (2016), 385-390

20. ‘Deborah Lutz, Relics of Death in Victorian Literature and Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015)’, Tennyson Research Bulletin, 10/5 (2016), 483-484

21. ‘Tennyson at Trinity’, The Fountain, 19 (2014), 12-13

Selected Conference & Seminar Papers

Sesta Rima as a Mode of Imitation: Hybrid Forms in Anglo-Italian Verse’, Nineteenth Century Research Seminar, University of Cambridge (February 2023)

‘Byron and the Origins of Ottava Rima’, Public Lecture, The Byron Society (December 2022)

Sesta Rima as a Mode of Imitation: Hybrid Verse Forms in Anglo-Italian Verse’, Romantic Research Seminar, University of Oxford (October 2022)

‘Anglo-Italianate Verse Forms in Manuscript: Tennyson, Byron and Sesta Rima’, British Association for Victorian Studies Annual Conference, University of Birmingham (September 2022)

‘The Orphic Song: Innovation and Revision in Tennyson’s Notebooks’, London Nineteenth Century Studies Seminar, King's College London (March 2020, postponed)

‘Tennyson, Burke, and the Sublimity of Song’, Romantic Research Seminar, University of Oxford (November 2019 – one-hour seminar paper)

‘“Singing in her Song”: Tennyson's Romantic Inheritance’, British Association for Romantic Studies International Conference, University of Nottingham (July 2019)

‘Silence and Sublimity in Tennyson’s Early Notebooks’, Inventions of the Text, University of Durham (May 2019 – invited, one-hour seminar paper)

‘Multiple Authorship and the Poetics of Voice’, Oxford Centre for Textual Editing and Theory Inaugural Conference (April 2019 – invited symposium paper)

‘Tennyson’s Notebooks and the Allegory of Art’, Tennyson Society Annual Conference, University of Oxford (March 2019)

‘Tennyson’s Swan Songs: Silence and Revision in The Lady of Shalott’, Literary Birds Conference, University of Durham (October 2018)

‘Tennyson and the Victorian Literary Canon’, Tennyson Society Annual Conference, Girton College, Cambridge (August 2016 – invited, one-hour lecture)

‘Tennyson’s Early Voice: Romantic Prophecy and the Lyrical Mode’, British Association for Romantic Studies: Romantic Voices Conference, University of Oxford (June 2016)

‘Elegy in Exile: Byron and the Poetic Experiments of 1816’, The Summer of 1816: A Bicentenary Conference, University of Sheffield (June 2016)

‘Tennyson and The Golden Treasury: A Rediscovered Proof Copy’, Conference in Editorial Studies, Boston Editorial Institute (April 2016)

‘Tennyson and the Victorian Literary Canon’, Trinity Arts and Humanities Symposium, University of Cambridge (March 2016)

‘Tennyson, Palgrave and the Poetic Tradition’, Nineteenth-Century Graduate Workshop, University of Cambridge (November 2015)

‘Tennyson and the Nineteenth-Century Lyric Anthology: Constructing a Victorian Canon’, British Association for Victorian Studies Annual Conference, Leeds Trinity University (August 2015)

‘“Notes of busy life in distant worlds”: Tennyson and the Voice of Antiquity’, Victorian Modernities Conference, University of Kent (June 2015)

‘Byronic Illusion and the Elegiac Mode’, Long-Eighteenth-Century Research in Progress Seminar, University of Oxford (November 2014)

‘“The Controlless Core of Human Hearts”: Writing the Self in Byron’s Don Juan’, Adam’s Dream: Imaginative Incarnations in the Long Eighteenth Century, University of Cambridge (April 2013)

‘Chaotic Imaginings in the Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley’, University of Durham (June 2012)