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Dr Matt Kerr BA (Hons), MSt, DPhil, FHEA

Doctoral Programme Director

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. I completed my undergraduate degree at Mount Allison, a small liberal arts college in the Canadian Maritimes, and my postgraduate degrees at the University of Oxford, where I was a Clarendon Scholar and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada award-holder. I am from Vancouver, Canada.

My research and teaching centre on Victorian literature and culture. My work spans both well-known figures—Charles Dickens, John Stuart Mill, John 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.

My monograph The Victorian Novel and the Problems of Marine Language: All at Sea is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.


Appointments held:

Research interests

Victorian studies, blue humanities, history of the emotions, nineteenth-century nonfiction

PhD supervision

Stephen Edwards, ‘The Romances of Mary Ward and Marie Corelli’ (co-supervised with Professor Mary Hammond)

Research projects

My first book (currently with readers) is entitled All at Sea: The Novel and the Problems of Marine Language, 1829–1931. To write about the sea in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was to do so against a vast accretion of past deeds, patterns of thought, and particularly patterns of expression, many of which had begun to feel not just settled but exhausted. All at Sea takes up this circumstance, showing how prose writers in this period grappled with the super-conventionalized nature of the sea as a setting, as a shaper of plot and character, as a structuring motif, and as a source of metaphor. But while writing about the sea required careful negotiation of multiple and sometimes conflicting associations, this book draws out for the first time the creative productiveness entailed in such struggles. I argue that the sea’s multiplicity and freight function not just as impediments to thought or expression, but as sources of intellectual and expressive possibilities across a provocatively diverse group of key authors spanning from the 1820s to the 1930s, including Charlotte Brontë, Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, Captain Marryat, and Virginia Woolf, among others.

While working on All at Sea, I also co-edited a volume entitled Coastal Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century (Edinburgh University Press, 2018; paperback, 2020) with Dr Matthew Ingleby (Queen Mary University of London). Coastal Cultures was recently selected by Edinburgh for its digital platform, Edinburgh Scholarship Online (ESO).

My next project concerns the feeling of contentment (being ‘happy enough’) in Victorian literature and culture. I will present preliminary work from it, concerning Bleak House, at the 2021 North American Victorian Studies Association conference.

Affiliate research group

Southampton Centre for Nineteenth-Century Research

I am Co-Head of Admissions for Southampton English with Dr Justine Pizzo.





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Book Chapters

Module co-ordinator: The Act of the Essay, Nineteenth-Century British Literature (with Dr Justine Pizzo), Victorian Feelings

Lectures and/or seminars: The Act of the Essay, Literary Transformations, Nineteenth-Century British Literature, Poetic Language, Victorian Feelings

Postgraduate teaching: Nineteenth-Century Literature Pathway

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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