Dr Simon Rennie

Research interests


My last AHRC-funded research project examined the poetry of the writer and Chartist, Ernest Charles Jones (1819-69), with attention paid to its historical, cultural, and political contexts. Jones’s privileged social background, German upbringing, and eventual imprisonment alongside working-class Chartists, provide ample opportunity to illuminate the cross-cultural implications of his political career and thought through his poetry. Subjects covered by my research include the influence of German Romanticism on British radical aesthetics, poetic mythopoeia, radical appropriations of Victorian medievalism, prison poetry, and early Victorian working-class cultural production. Jones’s close association with Marx and Engels, his contributions to the Leeds Northern Star and Notes to the People, and his role as the last leader of the Chartists, have given him prominent historical status, but his influential poetry has never before been the subject of a full-length study.

I am currently Principal Investigator in a large-scale AHRC-funded project examining Cotton Famine poetry published between 1861 and 1865 in standard English and Lancashie dialect. In conjunction with the Exeter Digital Humanites team,  I am developing a publicly-accessible database of Lancashire Cotton Famine poetry. Although Lancashire Dialect poets have been studied as a group  and separately, poetry of the Cotton Famine, including its unique aspects of multiple address and function, and fascinating reactions to the American Civil War, has received scant critical attention, and the bulk of the poetry remains uncollected in Lancashire newspaper archives.

Research collaborations

My current research into Lancashire Cotton Famine poetry is being developed in close collaboration with my Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded project, Professor Brian Maidment of Liverpool John Moores University.