John Bowen



John Bowen is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature. He joined the Department in 2005 from Keele University, where he was Professor of Modern English Literature. He read English at Trinity Hall, Cambridge and then took an MA and PhD at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham. His main research area is nineteenth-century fiction, in particular the work of Charles Dickens, but he has also written on modern poetry and fiction, as well as essays on literary theory.

His Other Dickens: Pickwick to Chuzzlewit (Oxford University Press, 2000) appeared in paperback in 2003, as did his edition of Dickens's Barnaby Rudge for Penguin. 2005 saw the publication of Palgrave Advances in Charles Dickens Studies, co-edited with Professor Robert L. Patten of Rice University. He has also contributed to the Oxford Reader’s Companion to Dickens, the Cambridge Companion to Wilkie Collins and has written about Victorian comic and satiric writing for the forthcoming Cambridge History of English Literature.

He reviews regularly for the Times Literary Supplement and has contributed to a number of television documentaries and radio programmes, including BBC Radio 4's Front Row, In Our Time, Open Book, PM, Today, Woman's Hour and, most recently, BBC1's Inside Out and the 2008 Channel 4 documentary Dickens’s Secret Lover. You can read Professor Bowen's recent TLS reviews of Jenny Hartley's Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women and Michael Slater's new Life of Dickens, and also listen to a Radio 4 Today programme discussing Dickens and debt.  He will be discussing 'The Phenomenal Charles Dickens' with Claire Tomalin at the British Library on December 2nd 2011.



Professor Bowen is currently completing a jointly-authored book with Anthea Trodd on the literary collaborations of Dickens and Wilkie Collins, a project funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and on a successor to Other Dickens.

Other projects include essays on Dickens for Dickens in Context (CUP) and The Cambridge Companion to European Novelists and on the Brontes for The Oxford History of the Novel in English.


He would be pleased to receive proposals for doctoral research on most areas of nineteenth century fiction, in particular on Dickens, the Brontes, Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, historical fiction, comic and satirical writing in all genres, and on literary theory, particularly the work of Heidegger, Derrida and Walter Benjamin.He also has twentieth-century research interests in the fiction of Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Powell and John Berger and the poetry of Edward Thomas.

He has a strong group of doctoral students, working on a wide range of nineteenth-century and some twentieth-century topics. Recent and current doctoral theses that he has supervised include:

  • The Epistemology of Love: Being Known in Victorian Fiction
  • Death Commodities in Nineteenth-Century Literature
  • Anti-Catholicism in Dickens
  • Nation and Persona in mid-Nineteenth Century Journalism
  • The Kinds of John Berger's Fiction
  • Crime and Justice in Dickens's novels
  • Narrative Strategies in Charles Dickens's Sketches by Boz
  • Adoption in the Nineteenth-century Novel
  • Frances Taylor and her Circle
  • Late Dickens
  • Charles Dickens's Changing Representations 1857-1935
  • Metaphors and Images of the Mind in Modernist literature
  • Dickens and Switzerland



His undergraduate teaching includes courses on the Victorians and Romantics and special options on Dickens and (with Professor Tom Baldwin) Contemporary Continental Philosophy and Literary Theory. 


He contributes to the core courses of both the MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature and the MA in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture and offers an option module, 'Strangers to Ourselves: Dickens and Collins'.

External activities


Professor Bowen is a Fellow of the English Association and is a former President of the Dickens Society.

He has a close relationship with the University of California Dickens Project, is a member of its faculty and will be lecturing at this summer's Dickens Universe.  His work for the University of California Dickens Project was featured in Professor Jill Lepore’s article ‘Dickens in Eden’ in the New Yorker magazine, August 29, 2011, pp 52-61.  You can view a short documentary about the Dickens Universe at

He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Dickens Studies Annual: Essays on Victorian Fiction.

For more about the Charles Dickens L’Inimitable/The Inimitable exhibition at Chateau Hardelot to whose catalogue he contributed an essay, see:

He will be speaking at the Institute for Historical Research on 20 November and giving a plenary lecture at the the Pisa literary festival on 24 November.

He will also be lecturing on Dickens at Trinity Hall, Cambridge on November 17th; giving the annual Professor Glyn Turton lecture at University of Chester in December and a plenary lecture at the Gothic: Culture, Subculture, Counterculture conference at Strawberry Hill in March 2013. 

John Bowen

Contact details

Prof. John Bowen
Department of English and Related Literature
University of York
Y010 5DD

Tel: 44 1904 324717