Professor Nicholas Halmi

  • Enlightenment and Romantic literature (esp. poetry) and philosophy
  • European intellectual history, 17th–20th centuries
  • Comparative literature (British, German, French, Italian)
  • Historicization and aesthetics
  • Classical reception
  • Enlightenment and Romantic art and visual culture (including architecture)
  • Literary history and theory (esp. genre theory and issues of periodization)
  • Anglo-Italian and Anglo-German literary and cultural relations

My research is concerned principally with British and Continental literature, philosophy, and visual arts of the 'long eighteenth century' (roughly, mid-17th to mid-19th century), particularly in their responses to the challenges and discontents of modernity and in their relation to the historical past.

Romantic symbol. My book The Genealogy of the Romantic Symbol (2007) analysed an historically signficant attempt to overcome, through means bequeathed by the Enlightenment itself, a profound dissatisfaction with the dualisms of Enlightenment epistemology, semiotics, aesthetics, and natural science. A primary purpose of the book was to explain what intellectual purposes the Romantic theorization of the symbol--which was very influential in post-Romantic criticism and has caused much contention in critical theory since the 1960s--served in the nineteenth century itself. The book's own genealogy is recounted in the article 'Telling Stories about Romantic Theory' (2012), and its central argument is summarized in my discussion with Robert Harrison in his radio programme Entitled Opinions. Various of the contributors to the collection Symbol and Intuition (2013), to which I wrote an afterword, engage with aspects of the Genealogy's argument, and the book has been praised by philosophers (e.g. Miguel de Beistegui) and historians (e.g. Warren Breckman) as well as by literary critics (e.g. Terry Eagleton). It has also provoked less approving responses from theologians.

Historicization and aesthetics. More recently I have been writing about historical self-consciousness and the aestheticization of the past in poetry, painting, and architecture of the long eighteenth century (e.g., in representations of imaginary ruins), as well as on the relation of the Romantics’ self-consciously new literary forms to traditional genres and genre theory (e.g., Byron's ironization of epic in Don Juan). I was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship to work on a comparative study of the relationship of historical understanding to aesthetic theory and artistic form, History's Forms: Historicization, Aesthetics, and the Past. Extending chronologically from the early Renaissance to the mid-ninteenth century, this book reconceives the concepts of renaissance and nostalgia, contests a too-exclusive identification of historicization in European thought with what Reinhart Koselleck called the Sattelzeit (roughly 1750-1850), emphasizes resistances to historicization in the aesthetic sphere, and questions literary/artistic periodization (which is itself a product of historicization). An anticipation of some of the book's arguments was published in Modern Language Quarterly in September 2013. Outgrowths of this project include chapters and lectures on the discontents of historicization more generally and on historical periodization.

Further projects include a book on Coleridge (contracted with Princeton University Press) and a book on Byron.

I have also done a good deal of textual scholarship—editing or co-editing scholary editions of works by Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Percy Shelley—and served for four years on the Modern Language Association's Committee on Scholarly Editions (in 2007–9 as co-chair). From 2010 to 2018 I was an advisory editor of Oxford University Press’s Oxford Scholarly Editions Online project, with particular responsibility for Romantic-period editions. My Norton Critical Edition of Wordsworth (2013), described in the TLS as 'likely to set the agenda for classroom study of Wordsworth for years to come' and 'an essential text for scholars', contains a generous selection of the poetry and critical prose, including a newly edited and annotated text of the 1805 Prelude and—for the first time in any edition—en face texts of The Ruined Cottage and book 1 of The Excursion.

I am an Associated Academic Staff member of the History of Art Department, am involved in the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation Group, and am a member of the editorial board of the series Close Reading: Schriften zur britischen Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaft, published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. I have twice served on the Advisory Board of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR), most recently as chair (in 2015 and 2016), and in the English Faculty have been a co-convenor of the Romanticism Research Seminar. I have also served formerly on the editorial boards of Romanticism on the Net (as reviews editor, 2004–8) and Modern Language Quarterly. In 2023 I was elected a member of the Zentrum für Klassikforschung (Research Centre for European Classicism), the research advisory board, of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Germany's second-largest cultural foundation.

Universal Histories Research Seminar, Hilary Term 2020

This seminar series explored the emergence of different types of universal histories with their speculative particularities—linguistic, aesthetic political, religious—over the course of the Enlightenment period. A selection of articles deriving from the seminar, along with additional articles, was published in 2023 as a special issue of Intellectual History Review.


Hans Blumenberg Seminar Online, Michaelmas Term 2020

A Zoom seminar series convened by Audrey Borowski with the participation of me and other scholars interested in the work of the philosopher Hans Blumenberg (1920–96).



History's Forms: Historicization, Aesthetics, and the Past (in progress, contracted with OUP)

The Genealogy of the Romantic Symbol (OUP, 2007; 2nd printing, 2011)

Editor, Wordsworth's Poetry and Prose (Norton Critical Edition, 2013; corrected 2nd printing, 2017; 3rd printing, July 2021)

Co-editor, Inventions of the Imagination: Romanticism and Beyond (University of Washington Press, 2011)

Co-editor, Coleridge's Poetry and Prose (Norton Critical Edition, 2004; 6th printing, 2017)

Textual editor, Opus Maximum, vol. 15 of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Princeton UP, 2002)

Co-editor (with Audrey Borowski), 'Universal Histories', special issue of Intellectual History Review, 33.3 (September 2023)

'Allegory in British Romanticism', in David Parry (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Allegory (OUP, forthcoming 2024)

'Généalogie du cliché', Revue de littérature comparée, 388 (97.4) (2023), 403–16 [on the development of the concept of literary cliché; article in French, abstract in French and English]

'Transcendental Revolutions', in Patrick Vincent (ed.), The Cambridge History of European Romantic Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2023), pp. 223–54

'Universal Histories', introduction to special issue of Intellectual History Review, 33.3 (September 2023), 367–74

'Coleridge's Philosophies', in Tim Fulford (ed.), The New Cambridge Companion to Coleridge (Cambridge University Press, 2022), pp. 209–24

'An Email from September 2001', The Wordsworth Circle, 53 (winter 2022), 11–12 [special issue in memory of Marilyn Gaull]

'Periodisation and the Epochal Event', in Sophie Lanier-Musitelli and Céline Sabiron (eds.), Romanticism and Time (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2021), pp. 234–41, 256–7 [essay and comment contributed to the section 'Romanticism and Periodisation: A Roundtable', with contributions also from David Duff, Fiona Stafford, Martin Procházka, and Laurent Folliot; free PDF of the volume available here]

'Romantic Thinking', in Daniel Whistler and Panaiota Vassipoloulou (eds.), in Thought: A Philosophical History (Abingdon: Routledge, 2021), pp. 61–74 [on anti-foundationalism and self-reflexivity in Hölderlin, Novalis, and Friedrich Schlegel]

With Stephanie Dumke, 'The Reception of A. W. Schlegel in British Romanticism', Serapion: Zweijahresschrift für europäische Romantik, 1 (2020), 89–103

'Spinoza nel romanticismo inglese (Coleridge e Shelley)', in Carlo Altini (ed.), La fortuna di Spinoza in età moderna e contemporanea (Pisa: Edizioni della Scuole Normale Superiore di Pisa, 2020), vol. 2, pp. 55–69

'The Shelley Memorial, University College, Oxford', Rêve (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition), published 27 March 2020

Translations into French ('Le Mémorial de Shelley'), German ('Das Shelley-Denkmal'), and Italian ('La statua di Shelley')

'European Romanticism: Ambivalent Responses to the Sense of a New Epoch', in Warren Breckman and Peter Gordon (eds.), The Cambridge History of Modern European Thought (CUP, 2019), vol. 1, pp. 40–64

‘The Greco-Roman Revival’, in David Duff (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of British Romanticism (OUP, 2018), pp. 661–74

With Stephanie Dumke, 'An Unpublished Carlyle Letter in Leipzig', Notes and Queries, 66 (2018), 372–5

‘Byron and Weltliteratur’, in Norbert Lennartz (ed.), Byron and Marginality (Edinburgh University Press, 2018), pp. 19–29 [on Byron and Goethe]

‘The Literature of Italy in Byron’s Poems of 1817–20’, in Alan Rawes and Diego Saglia (eds.), Byron and Italy (Manchester University Press, 2017), pp. 23–43

'Past and Future, Discontent and Unease', in Christoph Bode (ed.), Romanticism and the Forms of Discontent (Trier: WVT, December 2017), pp. 87–100

'Two Types of Wordsworthian Ambiguity', in Sebastian Domsch, Christoph Reinfandt, and Katharina Rennhak (eds.), Romantic Ambiguities: Abodes of the Modern (Trier: WVT, 2017), pp. 37–52

‘The Anti-Historicist Historicism of German Romantic Architecture’, European Romantic Review, 26 (2015), 789–807

Co-editor, Percy Shelley's Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things, Bodleian Library, Oxford, 2015 [digital edition of the sole surviving copy of Shelley's undergraduate poem, published a few weeks before his expulsion from Oxford in March 1811; I was responsible for the annotation]

‘The Theorization of Style’, in Stefanie Fricke, Felicitas Meinert, and Katharina Pink (eds.), Romanticism and Knowledge (Trier: WVT, 2015), pp. 73–86

‘Symbolism, Imagism, and Hermeneutic Anxiety’, Connotations: A Journal of Critical Debate, 23.1 (2013/14), 127–39

Abridged version: ‘The Poundian Image and the Romantic Symbol’, La Questione Romantica, n.s. 5 (2013 [published December 2015]), 153–8

‘Romanticism, the Temporalization of History, and the Historicization of Form’, Modern Language Quarterly, 74 (2013), 363–89

Afterword to James Vigus and Helmut Hühn (eds.), Symbol and Intuition: Comparative Studies in Kantian and Romantic-Period Aesthetics (London: Legenda, 2013), pp. 191–3

‘Coleridge’s Ecumenical Spinoza’, in Beth Lord (ed.), Spinoza beyond Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), pp. 188–207

Abridged reprint: Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, 61 (April 2012 [published November 2013])

‘Telling Stories about Romantic Theory’, European Romantic Review, 23 (2012), 305–11

‘Ruins without a Past’, Essays in Romanticism, 18 (2011), 7–27 [on artificial and imaginary ruins]

‘Byron between Ariosto and Tasso’, in Frederick Burwick and Paul Douglass (eds.), Dante and Italy in British Romanticism (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011), pp. 39–53

‘The Very Model of a Modern Epic Poem’, European Romantic Review, 21 (2010), 589–600 [on Byron's Don Juan]

Reprinted in: Thomas Pfau and Robert Mitchell (eds.), Romanticism and Modernity (Routledge, 2012), chap. 10)

‘Coleridge on Allegory and Symbol’, in Frederick Burwick (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Coleridge (OUP, 2009), pp. 345–58

Graduate Supervision:

I am happy to consider requests to supervise MSt dissertations and DPhil theses on subjects broadly related to the areas of my research.

Broadcasts and blog posts:

'"A dream, which was not all a dream": dark reflections from June 1816', OUP Blog, published 16 June 2016

'Byron: Judging and Judged', Oxford Scholary Editions Online, published 25 August 2015

Interview, 'From Radical Engraver to Canonical Poet: How Did William Blake's Reputation Change?', Oxford Arts Blog, University of Oxford, published 4 December 2014

'Incorporating Oxford Scholarly Editions Online into Undergraduate Teaching', Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, published 14 October 2013

'Snapshots in Time: Critical Editions and Changes in Editorial Practice', Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, published 31 July 2012

Audio slideshow on William Blake's Illustrations of the Book of Job, BBC News, published 19 May 2011

Radio interview about the Romantic symbol, KZSU FM, Stanford University, 8 Feb. 2011

Other Information:

Before coming to Oxford I had a tenured appointment in the departments of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Washington, Seattle. I have been a Visiting Professor of English at Stanford University, a Visiting Scholar at the Università di Bologna and the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung in Berlin, and a Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Università di Bologna. In 2023 I was elected a member of the Zentrum für Klassikforschung (Research Centre for European Classicism) of the Stiftung Weimar Klassik, Germany's second-largest cultural foundation.

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