Jim Watt


BA, MA, PhD (Cambridge)

I did my BA and PhD at Cambridge, and then had two years of a Junior Research Fellowship at St Catharine’s College before coming to York. My first book Contesting the Gothic: Fiction, Genre and Cultural Conflict 1764-1832 was published by Cambridge UP in 1999, and I am in the process of completing a book provisionally titled British Orientalisms, 1759-1835.
My teaching interests are primarily in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I offer an undergraduate special module, Empire and British Identities, and an MA option module, British Orientalisms. I teach on the core courses of the MAs in Eighteenth Century Studies, Romantic and Sentimental Literature, Nineteenth Century Literature, and Cultures of Empire.
In 2013-14 I will be Director of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, and convenor of the interdisciplinary MA in Eighteenth Century Studies.



Research Interests

My first book was on Gothic fiction, and I continue to be interested in the meanings of the Gothic in the late eighteenth century, in particular in the period during and after Britain’s war with its American colonies. I hope to return to this area sometime fairly soon for a project on the practice and representation of ‘Gothic tourism’ in Britain, inspired by seeing historical graffiti tags on the walls of Netley Abbey near Southampton. I’m interested in the potentially interactive and sociable or communal dimensions of domestic Gothic tourism, and the ways in which it can’t simply be reduced to the activities of solitary walkers and seekers after the picturesque.

I am currently in the process of completing a project provisionally titled British Orientalisms, 1759-1835, which examines representations of ‘the East’ in novels, poems, plays, and non-fictional prose published in Britain between the ‘year of victories’ at the height of the Seven Years’ War and Macaulay’s ‘Minute on Indian Education’. This project has a literary-historical rationale, in that it is concerned to map and reconfigure a richly diverse field of cultural production, and it seeks to use literary history as a lens on the larger question of how Britons tried to negotiate the contradiction between their rapidly expanding territorial empire and their enduring sense of themselves as a liberty-loving people. With reference to recent critical attempts to identify examples of ‘good’ Orientalism that might offer cultural resources for the twenty-first century, I’m especially interested in historicizing the terms on which writers and readers in this period may have conceived of an ‘openness’ to Eastern others.




Research Supervision

I’ve supervised PhD dissertations on the ‘male Gothic’ from Walpole to Byron, the figure of the imaginary Oriental traveller in the long eighteenth century, the representation of ‘Improvement’ in Romantic-period fictions of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and ‘women’s Gothic’ fiction from Reeve and Lee to Hays to Wollstonecraft. I’m currently supervising dissertations on Salman Rushdie and the eighteenth century and nineteenth-century vampire narratives.

I’d welcome enquiries from any prospective students, but particularly from those interested in Orientalism and empire or the Gothic.




  • Contesting the Gothic: Fiction, Genre, and Cultural Conflict, 1764-1832 (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
  • Oxford World’s Classics edition of Clara Reeve, The Old English Baron (2004)
  • ‘Gothic’, in The Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1740-1830, ed. Thomas Keymer and Jon Mee (Cambridge University Press, 2004)
  • ‘Scott, the Scottish Enlightenment, and Romantic Orientalism’, in Scotland and the Borders of Romanticism, ed. Leith Davis, Ian Duncan and Janet Sorenson ( Cambridge University Press, 2004)
  • ‘Goldsmith’s Cosmopolitanism’, Eighteenth-Century Life, 30:1 (Winter, 2006)
  • ‘Thomas Percy, China, and the Gothic’, The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 48:2 (Summer 2007)
  • ‘Orientalism and Empire’, in The Cambridge Companion to Fiction in the Romantic Period, ed. Richard Maxwell and Katie Trumpener ( Cambridge University Press, 2008)
  • ‘“The peculiar character of the Arabian Tale:” William Beckford and the Arabian Nights’, in The Arabian Nights in Historical Context: Between East and West, ed. Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum (Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • ‘“[T]he blessings of freedom:” Britain, America, and “the East” in the Fiction of Robert Bage’, Eighteenth-Century Fiction ( 2009)
  • ‘“The Indigent Philosopher:” Oliver Goldsmith’, in The Blackwell Companion to Irish Literature, ed. Julia M. Wright (Blackwell, 2010).
  •  ‘Eighteenth-Century Gothic: Nation, History, Gender’, Gothic Studies 14:1 (May 2012)
  • ‘“What mankind has lost and gained”: Johnson, Rasselas, and Colonialism’, in Reading 1759: Literary Culture in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Britain and France, ed, Shaun Regan (Bucknell University Press, 2013)
  • ‘Fictions of Commercial Empire, 1774-1782’, in India and Europe in the Global Eighteenth Century, ed. Simon Davies, Gabriel Sanchez Espinosa, and Daniel Roberts (Voltaire Foundation, forthcoming)
  • ‘Radcliffe and Politics’, in Ann Radcliffe: Gothic and Romantic Engagements, ed. Dale Townsend and Angela Wright (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)
  • ‘Orientalism and Hebraism’, in The Oxford Handbook of British Romanticism, ed. David Duff (Oxford University Press, forthcoming)
  • ‘Arabian Nights and Oriental Spies’, in The Oxford History of the Novel in English vol.1, ed. Thomas Keymer (Oxford University Press, forthcoming)


Contact Details

Office: K/173b
Tel: internal 4978, external 01904 324978
E-mail:  jim.watt@york.ac.uk
Department: English and Related Literature