Dr Christopher Stokes

Research interests

My research has focused on poetry of the Romantic period, with a strong interest in various strains of philosophical and theological history.

I began as a Coleridgean, with my first monograph Coleridge, Language and the Sublime (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) attempting to trace a philosophically informed negotiation between the persistence of Romantic idealism, and its failures and withdrawals, across a wide range of his work. The book has been praised as an 'impressive, ranging, perceptive account...[taking] a subject that we throught we knew all about and discover[ing] something new to say about it' (Seamus Perry) and as work that 'one can only hope...will have a significant impact both within and beyond Coleridge scholarship' (Jonathan Murphy review in Romanticism 18.2). 

My second monograph project, Romantic Prayer: Reinventing the Poetics of Devotion, 1773-1832, is a multi-author study which shows the importance of poetry as a key cultural site for exploring the status of prayer at a critical juncture in histories of secularity and faith alike. Contextualised through an extensively researched archive of primary material (e.g. sermons, manuals, guides) on contemporary ideas of prayer, it covers a broad range of writers, from those attached polemically to specific Christian denominations (e.g. Cowper, Barbauld) to those engaged in a post-Christian or atheist interrogation of devotion (e.g. Keats, P.B. Shelley). It argues, ultimately, that no understanding of theism or atheism in literature of the period can afford to overlook the intertwining of poetic language with the language of prayer.

Looking forward, I am currently working on the Quaker poet, Bernard Barton, with a view to building a larger project around an AHRC funding proposal on Quaker literary culture in the long nineteenth-century. This work is interested in the broader question of how religious minorities enter, engage and modify the mainstream literary and aesthetic norms of their time: a question sharpened due to the historical opposition to non-didactic literature on the part of the Society of Friends.

Alongside these larger projects, I have engaged in several other fields of research, often impelled by interests in literary and critical theory. These include articles on expression and self in Felicia Hemans and Charlotte Smith, work on urban experience in Wordsworth, an analysis of the eroticised body in John Donne, and a scholarly recovery of the Romantic era 'infancy lyric' - largely minor or anonymous poems, by women, addressed to newborn babies.