Dr Simon Avery

Dr Simon Avery

I have taught at the University of Westminster since 2007, where I am currently Reader in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture. I have previously been Course Leader for the Single Honours English Literature degree and PhD admissions tutor for English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies, and I now co-ordinate Outreach and Recruitment work for the School of Humanities. 

Before coming to Westminster, I taught in the School of Humanities at the University of Hertfordshire (1999-2007) and the Department of English and Drama at Anglia Ruskin University (1996-1999), where I was also Deputy Director of a HEFCE-funded project on graduate and transferable skills. I have additionally been a tutor at the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education. I hold an MA in Victorian Literature (University of Nottingham), a PhD in nineteenth-century literature and politics (Anglia Ruskin), and a postgraduate certificate in learning and teaching in higher education (University of Hertfordshire).

My key areas of teaching and research interest are nineteenth-century poetry and fiction; the relations between literature and politics in the long nineteenth century; and queer history, literature and cultures. With Dr Katherine M. Graham, I am Director of the Queer London Research Forum, which was established in 2013 in order to investigate the histories of queer London from c.1850 to the present.

My research lies in two key areas:


I have a long-standing interest in nineteenth-century women's writing and particularly the relations between women's writing and politics. I have published monographs and editions in this area on Elizabeth Barrett Browning (2003, 2004 and 2011) and Mary Coleridge (2010), and articles and book chapters on Barrett Browning, the Brontës, Eliza Ogilvy, Mathilde Blind, Eleanor Marx, and women writers' responses to the 1848 Revolutions. I also have an interest in the writings of Thomas Hardy and have previously published a critical history of The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude the Obscure (2009) and the Broadview edition of The Return of the Native (2013). 

My articles and reviews have appeared in Victorian Poetry, Victorian Review, Gothic Studies, Brontë Studies, Journal of Victorian CultureJournal of Browning Studies, Journal of Literature and Science and History Workshop Journal

I am currently working on aspects of the Brontë family's engagement with nineteenth-century politics and co-editing a new collection of essays on Elizabeth Barrett Browning with Professor Cora Kaplan (contracted to Edinburgh University Press). 


I am Director, with Dr Katherine M. Graham, of the Queer London Research Forum, which is housed within the School of Humanities. The Forum was established in 2013 with the aim of developing research into the histories of queer London from a range of (multi-/ inter-)disciplinary perspectives. In 2016, our co-edited collection, Sex, Time and Place: Queer Histories of London, c.1850 to the Present, was published by Bloomsbury Academic, including my authored chapter on theories of queer space. I have also published work on Alan Hollinghurst's The Folding Star (in Sex and Sensibility in the Novels of Alan Hollinghurst, ed. Mark Mathuray, 2017). Most recently I have edited an anthology of queer poetry from Sappho and Catullus to the present, published by Pan Macmillan in 2023: 


My research has been supported by the Armstrong Browning Library, the British Association of Victorian Studies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. 


I regularly give invited talks on my research at events and festivals. In recent years I have spoken at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, the Marylebone Festival, Clapham Omnibus Theatre, University of the Third Age (Ealing branch and Buxton branch), the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education, the Royal College of Art, the Browning Society and Ledbury Poetry Festival. 

(Ledbury Poetry Festival day on Elizabeth Barrett Browning: https://www.poetry-festival.co.uk/podcast/24-elizabeth-barrett-browning-and-place-a-day-conference-session-1/

I also regularly give talks and run workshops for A level students in London. 


I welcome enquiries from postgraduate students looking to work on any of the above topics and especially nineteenth-century women's writing, nineteenth-century political cultures, and queer history, literature and cultures. 

I have been Director of Studies for successful PhDs on Christina Rossetti and liminality, the early drama of 'Michael Field', and the politics of exiled English convents, c.1600-1829; and second supervisor for PhDs on Victorian female detectives, the aunt figure in the work of Virginia Woolf, and queerness and post-devolution Scottish Literature. Current PhD candidates are working on the political fiction of Benjamin Disraeli and religion in the work of Mary Coleridge. 

  • Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture
  • Literary Studies

In brief

Research areas

Nineteenth Century Literature and Culture; Queer Writing and Culture