Professor Nicholas McDowell

Professor of Early Modern Literature and Thought


Extension: 4269

Telephone: 01392 724269

Nicholas McDowell's principal interest is the literary, cultural and intellectual history of the period 1500-1780, with particular focus on the Civil Wars of the 17th-century, and on major literary figures of that period, pre-eminently John Milton and Andrew Marvell. A subsidary interest is the legacy of 17th-century ideas and conflicts in the modern world, especially 20th-century Ireland.

Professor McDowell grew up in Belfast and was educated at Cambridge and Oxford. He is the author of The English Radical Imagination: Culture, Religion, and Revolution, 1630-1660 (Oxford University Press, 2003) and Poetry and Allegiance in the English Civil Wars: Marvell and the Cause of Wit (Oxford University Press, 2008); and the editor, with Nigel Smith, of The Oxford Handbook of Milton (Oxford University Press, 2009; paperback, 2011), and, with N. H. Keeble, of The Oxford Complete Works of John Milton. Volume VI: Vernacular Regicide and Republican Writings (Oxford University Press, 2013), for which he completed a new scholarly edition of Milton's prose works in defence of the execution of Charles I. He has published over 50 articles and book chapters, on topics ranging from political prose in Tudor England to Jonathan Swift's satirical voices. 

Currently he is finishing Poet of Revolution, a major study of the intellectual development of John Milton commissioned by Princeton University Press, and working on a study of the translation and reception of Rabelais in 17th- and 18th-century Britain.This project was assisted in 2014-15 by the award of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship and will result in a book, The English Rabelais: Translating Laughter from Elizabethan Satire to 'Tristram Shandy'.

He is also editing, with his Exeter colleague Henry Power, The Oxford Handbook of English Prose, 1640-1714. A longer-term project is a comparative study of civil war poetry in 17th-century Britain and 20th-century Ireland, the first fruits of which are articles in Essays in Criticism ('Towards a Poetics of Civil War') and Global Intellectual History ('Civil Wars of Words').

Professor McDowell's research has been recognized by the award of a Philip Leverhulme Prize in Modern European Languages, and in recent years he has won three of the annual awards of the Milton Society of America for the most distinguished publication on John Milton (the Irene Samuel Award for a collection of essays in 2011, the James Holly Hanford Award for an essay in 2013 and the John T. Shawrcoss Award for an edition in 2015). He has held visiting fellowships in Princeton and Cambridge. An interview in The Guardian with Professor McDowell about his career and research can be accessed here:

His administrative roles have included Director of Research in the Department of English at Exeter, now one of the largest English departments in the world with over 70 permanent staff, in 2011-13 and 2015-17.


Forthcoming Talks:

'Refining the Sublime: Edward Phillips and the Failure of a Miltonic Education?'

British Milton Seminar, University of Birmingham, 11am, 20 October 2018


'Huguenot Refugees and the Politics of Translating Rabelais in Britain'

Early Modern and Eighteenth-Century Seminar, Unviersity of Warwick, 4-6pm, 15 November 2018 (SO. 17, Social Sciences)


'"The Darling Pleasure of Men of Sense": Translating Lucianic Satire in the Renaissance and 18th Century'

Visiting Speaker seminar, Department of English, University of St. Andrews, 13 March 2019


'The Rabelaisian Body Politic'

Conference keynote, Literature and the Early Modern State, Magdalene College, Cambridge, 4-5 April 2019