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Dr Matt Kerr 

Lecturer in British Literature 1837 - 1939

Dr Matt Kerr's photo

Matt is a Lecturer in British Literature from 1837 to 1939 at the University of Southampton.

I joined English at Southampton in 2015, having previously taught for a number of years at the University of Oxford, where I completed my DPhil and my Master’s. I’m from Vancouver, Canada, and I did my undergraduate degree at Mount Allison, a small liberal-arts university in the Canadian Maritimes.

My research and teaching centre on Victorian literature and culture. My work spans both well-known figures— Dickens, Mill, Ruskin—and neglected ones, such as Captain Marryat. I’ve had articles appear in Essays in Criticism, Review of English Studies, and Dickens Studies Annual, among other places.

I am currently preparing my first monograph, Boundless: The Language of the Sea and the Nineteenth-Century Novel. Where previous studies have demonstrated that nineteenth-century authors frequently wrote about the sea, my book suggests that the sea also forms an important aspect of the way in which they wrote. I trace the uses to which writers put marginalised representational techniques associated with the sea, such as cliché, repetition, and vagueness. Ultimately I argue that the vagueness of sea writing offers a useful paradigm for thinking about literary language itself.

My next major project focuses on the emotions in the Victorian period, specifically, on contentment. Contentment, unlike happiness and its cognates, is ambivalent, encompassing feelings from placidity to resignation. Moreover, models of contentment often involve discomfiting discriminations between emotions and the categories of individual deemed capable of experiencing them. In the process, the idea of contentment provides crucial information concerning the ways that the emotions are historically and culturally marked by gender, social class, and age in the nineteenth century. The project will consider not just poetry and fiction, but also philosophy, economics, science, visual and material culture, and popular journalism.

Smaller projects include a reading of Gustave Le Gray’s Victorian marine photography, which will be included in a volume on coastal cultures I am co-editing with Matthew Ingleby (QMUL), and continued work on John Stuart Mill’s private library.

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Book Chapters

  • Kerr, M. (Accepted/In press). Developing fluid: precision, vagueness and Gustave Le Gray’s photographic beachscapes. In M. Ingleby, & M. P. M. Kerr (Eds.), Coastal Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century (pp. 200-224). (Edinburgh Critical Studies in Victorian Culture). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Kerr, M., & Ingleby, M. (Accepted/In press). Introduction. In M. P. M. Kerr, & M. Ingleby (Eds.), Coastal Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century (pp. 1). (Edinburgh Critical Studies in Victorian Culture). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.


I teach topics and authors across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I currently contribute teaching to the undergraduate modules Victorian Bestsellers, Poetic Language, The Nineteenth-Century Novel, and Critical Theory.

Dr Matt Kerr
Faculty of Arts and Humanities University of Southampton Avenue Campus Highfield Southampton SO17 1BF United Kingdom

Room Number: 65/2003

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