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Professor Stephen Bending 

Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture

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Stephen Bending is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture 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), the Lewis Walpole Library (Yale University), and the University of Melbourne (Australia), as well as receiving research fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust, the AHRC, and, long ago, a Fulbright Fellowship. In 2021 I look forward to returning to the Huntington Library to complete my latest monograph on pleasure and pleasure gardens.

I have recently given keynotes and public lectures in Melbourne, 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.

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, recently on the garden-hating popularizer of the picturesque, William Gilpin, on the symbolic meaning of plants during the Enlightenment, and on a piece of fruit bush netting woven by the poet William Cowper; essays will soon be appearing on Horace Walpole, on Jane Austen, and on Romantic landscapes and garden. Alongside publications, I also continue to give keynotes lectures and public talks on these topics, most recently in Sydney, Singapore, Melbourne, 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), the International Center for Jefferson Studies (Monticello, Virginia), and the University of Melbourne — 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 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 colleagues in Europe, the United States and Australia. Papers from the conference ‘Moving Landscapes: Gardens and Gardening in the Transatlantic World, 1670–1830’, co-convened with Professor Jennifer Milam (Newcastle, Australia), will be appearing as a special issue of the Huntington Library Quarterly in 2021.

Another longstanding commitment has been to the re-publication of early women’s writing. With Professor Stephen Bygrave (also at Southampton), I am general editor of the Routledge (formerly Pickering and Chatto) Chawton House Library Series which includes Women’s Memoirs, Women’s Travel Writing, and Women’s Novels. The series began in 2006 and has now reached well over one hundred volumes; with the relaunch of the series under Routledge, 2020 saw an exciting expansion to the Novels series, with more to come.


Stephen and I would be 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 institutions in Australia and the US on exchanges, co-convened conferences and grant applications. Recent collaboration with the National Gallery, London, led to the joint conferences Women Writing About Art (Chawton House Library, February 2017), and Knowing 'as much of art as the cat': 19th-century women writers on the Old Masters (National Gallery, November 2017).

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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Professor 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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