Alison O'Byrne


BA, PhD (York)

My research interests are in the literature and culture of the long eighteenth century, with a specific focus on debates about and representations of the city in the period.



I am currently completing a book provisionally titled The Art of Walking in London: Representing the Eighteenth-Century City. I am especially interested in the wide range of uses to which walking is put by writers and artists in a variety of genres, including early guidebooks to and pocket maps of London, ramble and ‘spy’ narratives, and the various prints and ‘guides’ which satirically present the pitfalls of pedestrianism in the urban environment. My account of pedestrianism in London focuses on early eighteenth-century views of the city, literary and visual satires of St. James’s Park, discussions and debates about urban improvement, and literary pseudo-guidebooks to the metropolis, in order to demonstrate how accounts of walking in the city were bound up with discussions of politeness and public magnificence, and to explorations of class, gender, and national identity. I am also interested in the ways in which writers and artists have re-imagined John Gay’s 1716 poem Trivia, and my project ends with a discussion of the ways in which early nineteenth-century writers and artists returned to and reworked Gay’s account of ‘the art of walking the streets of London ’.

My interest in tourism in London forms the basis of a second project, a history of the guidebook to London.


Selected Publications

  •  “The Spectator and the Rise of the Modern Metropole” in The Cambridge Companion to the City in Literature, ed. Kevin McNamara.  Forthcoming, Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  • “George Scharf’s London Scenes” in “London Scenes”, a special issue of London Journal.  37:3 (November 2012), pp. 215-233.
  • Editor and "Introduction", "London Scenes”, a special issue of London Journal. Contributors include John Barrell, Markman Ellis, Jon Mee, and Elizabeth Grant. November 2012.
  • “The Art of Walking in London: Representing Urban Pedestrianism in Early Nineteenth-Century London” in Re-imagining the City, a special issue of Romanticism, edited Gregory Dart.  14:2 (2008), pp. 94-107.
  • “Composing Westminster Bridge: Public Improvement and National Identity in Eighteenth-Century London” in The Age of Projects, edited Maximillian E. Novak.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008, pp. 243-270.



At the undergraduate level, I contribute to the period and topic modules that cover the eighteenth century and Romantic period, and I teach a special module on Writing Eighteenth-Century London.

I also teach an option module for MA students on Representing the City, 1750-1850.


Contact Details

Room: K/173A
Telephone: 01904 324992
E mail:
Fax: 01904 324989
Department: English and Related Literature