Welcome. I enjoy thinking and writing about many kinds of art – from gardens, churches and Anglo-Saxon elegies to landscape watercolours and contemporary non-fiction. Most of all, I love reading.
I am a Professorial Fellow in English at the University of Birmingham, and was previously Professor of English at the University of Liverpool. My academic research is currently funded by a Philip Leverhulme Prize. I review fiction and non-fiction, mostly for the Guardian, write cultural features, most recently for Harper's Bazaar, and work regularly with galleries on exhibition catalogues. I was one of the first ten BBC New Generation Thinkers and have presented several series and a range of one-off programmes on Radio 3 and 4.
I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. I have been a judge for the RSL Ondaatje Prize, the Royal Academy of Arts Wollaston Award, the Authors' Foundation Awards, and the Observer/Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism.
My most latest book is Weatherland: Writers and Artists under English Skies. It’s an exploration of imaginative responses to the weather in England across centuries. I wanted to lie on the grass and watch the sky with Chaucer, with Milton, with Turner. Weatherland was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize, adapted in ten parts for Radio 4, and one of the most widely chosen titles in 'Books of the Year'.
My first book, Romantic Moderns (2010) traced connections between some of the most brilliant artists and writers of the twentieth century, including Virginia Woolf, John Piper, Bill Brandt, Eric Ravilious, Rex Whistler, and the Sitwells. I have also written an introduction to Virginia Woolf (now available in eight languages) and edited (with Lara Feigel) a collection of essays about modern art and the seaside.