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.

For several years he has been working on a major study of the intellectual development of Milton, focusing on his early life and writing up to the outbreak of the English Civil Wars. Poet of Revolution: The Making of John Milton will be published by Princeton University Press in the US and UK in hardcover, e-book and also audiobook formats on 27 October 2020. It is intended as the first of two volumes that will cover the whole life.

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. His most recent published work includes 'Rabelaisian Comedy and Satire', in The Oxford History of the Novel in English. Volume 1 (2017); 'Shakespearean Constitutions: Literary Culture and Republicanism', in Political Turmoil: Early Modern British Literature in Transition (2019); 'Marvell's French Spirit', in The Oxford Handbook of Andrew Marvell (2019); 'The Double Personality of Lucianic Satire from Dryden to Fielding' in The Oxford Handbook of Eighteenth-Century Satire (2019); and 'Refining the Sublime: Edward Phillips, a Miltonic Education, and the Sublimity of Paradise Lost', in Milton Studies 61, 2 (2019).

He is currently completing a brief study for Reaktion Books, John Milton and An England That Might Have Been, and a book on the translation and reception of Rabelais in 17th- and 18th-century Britain, The English Rabelais: Translation, Satire, and the Early Novel, the research for which was assisted by the award of a Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust and a Maddock Research Fellowship from Marsh's Library, Dublin.

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 Poetry of Civil War: from Marvell to Mahon, 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 by the Leverhulme Trust, and 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 in 2011-13 and 2015-17, in which capacity he oversaw the 2014 REF submission and advised colleagues on all aspects of publication, grant application, and public engagement.


31 March 2020: 'Andrew Marvell and the Poetry of Civil War'

The 4th Annual Andrew Marvell Lecture, University of Hull  - POSTPONED


9 May 2020: 'Marvell and the Poetics of Civil War'

Reimagining Andrew Marvell: the Poet at 400, British Academy conference, Kennedy Hall, University of St. Andrews - POSTPONED