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Dr Stephen Bending 

Senior Lecturer

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Dr Stephen Bending is a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Southampton.

I took my BA in English and History at the University of Birmingham and my PhD at Pembroke College, Cambridge. I have taught at Cambridge, Royal Holloway, Dundee, Birmingham and Leeds, as well as at Southampton, and have held junior and senior fellowships at Dumbarton Oaks (Harvard University), The Huntington Library (San Marino, California), the Clark Library (UCLA), the International Center for Jefferson Studies (Monticello, Virginia), and the Lewis Walpole Library (Yale University), as well as receiving research fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust, the AHRC, and, long ago, a Fulbright Fellowship.

I have recently given keynote lectures in Sydney and Singapore; examined PhD topics ranging from garden history to hip hop, from contemporary photography to pastoral fiction of the eighteenth century; and have offered my views on Jane Austen and landscape for the BBC’s Gardens from Above.

I have been a lecturer at the University of Southampton since 1997, became a Senior Lecturer in 2003, and am currently Director of the Southampton Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

Research interests

My work sits at the intersection of literary scholarship and cultural history. I have published widely on the representation of gender, identity, and emotion in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, in British and, increasingly, comparative and trans-national perspectives. Many of my publications focus on gardens, as a highly charged space in which personal sensitivity and social status were performed and negotiated in the encounter with physical and human "nature".  My work spans both general histories of this phenomenon—for example, I am editor of A Cultural History of Gardens in the Age of Enlightenment—and in-depth case studies of key literary figures, for example, my 2013 monograph Green Retreats: Women, Gardens and Eighteenth-Century Culture, which explores ideas of retirement, the problems of solitude, the influence of pastoral, and popular narratives of disgrace and shame in the writings of Elizabeth Montagu, Lady Caroline Holland, Henrietta Knight, Lady Luxborough, and Ellen Weeton amongst others. I continue to write on gardens and landscape, most recently on the garden-hating popularizer of the picturesque, William Gilpin, and on the symbolic meaning of plants during the Enlightenment; I also continue to give keynotes lectures and public talks on these topics, most recently in Sydney, Singapore, and at the National Gallery, London.

In recent years—with the aid of research fellowships at Dumbarton Oaks Garden Library (Harvard University), the Lewis Walpole Library (Yale University), the Huntington Library (San Marino, California), and the International Center for Jefferson Studies (Monticello, Virginia)—I have been developing my interests in early American literary and visual culture in relation to European gardens and landscapes. This work is currently taking two forms, first, a monograph entitled Pleasure Gardens and the Problems of Pleasure in Britain, France and North America, 1650-1830, which draws on French, America Colonial and British examples in order to examine the tension between social norms and lived experience in literary texts, designed landscapes and ego-documents; and second, a series of international conferences and collaborations with Chawton House Library, the University of Sydney, and the International Center for Jefferson Studies. In 2018 I will be co-convening (with Professor Jennifer Milam, University of Sydney):

Transatlantic Gardens and Enlightenment Ideas in American Art, a 2-day conference on landscape and American art at the International Center for Jefferson Studies, Monticello, Virgina, USA (funded by the Terra Foundation, Chicago, USA).

Moving Landscapes: Gardens and Gardening in the Transatlantic World, 1670-1830, a 2-day conference on transatlantic landscapes, hosted and funded by the Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, California, USA.

I will be developing collections of essays based on both of these conferences in 2019.

Another longstanding commitment has been to the re-publication of early women’s writing in Britain. With Professor Stephen Bygrave (Southampton), I am general editor of the Routledge (formerly Pickering and Chatto) Chawton House Library Series which has now reached over 100 volumes, including Women’s Memoirs, Women’s Travel Writing, and Women’s Novels. The series began in 2006; paperback editions of Novels began appearing in 2016; and works will also be appearing on Routledge’s electronic platform from 2017.


The first fruits of a further collaboration with Stephen Bygrave and with Routledge also appeared in 2017, with the launch of Chawton Studies in Scholarly Editing, the first two volumes of which have just been published.


For both the novels strand of the Chawton House Library Series, and for our new Chawton Studies in Scholarly Editing we are pleased to receive proposals and enquiries concerning future volumes.

As Director of the Southampton Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies (SCECS), I have been particularly keen to develop our national and international links, and have been working in collaboration with the University of Sydney and Monash University on collaborative exchanges, co-convened conferences and grant applications; collaboration with the National Gallery, London, has led to the joint conferences Women Writing About Art (Chawton House Library, February 2017) with a keynote lecture by Susanna Avery-Quash of the National Gallery, and Knowing 'as much of art as the cat': 19th-century women writers on the Old Masters, National Gallery (November 2017); collaboration with Sydney and the International Center for Jefferson Studies  (ICJS) has led to a public lecture by the Director of the ICJS, and to the 2018 Transatlantic Gardens and Enlightenment Ideas in American Art conference.

I am pleased to supervise in all areas of the long eighteenth century, and on topics on both sides of the Atlantic, and would particularly welcome PhD applications from students who would like to join my current cohort of postgrads working on gardens, colonial landscapes, and women’s writing.

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

Room Number: 65/2021

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