Christopher Stephen Townsend

Christopher Stephen Townsend


  • KY16 9AL

    United Kingdom

Personal profile

Research overview

I'm a Research Fellow in eighteenth-century and Romantic literature. I'm currently working on poetic form in British abolitionist poetry, especially in relation to the rise and fall of the heroic couplet. I'm interested in how poems formed a critique of one of the worst excesses of commerce, chattel slavery, at the same moment that poetry itself was becoming a commodity for the first time. I want to explore that story by tracing the changing attitudes towards styles of rhyme in the period. Current work includes essays on William Cowper's blank verse, the perceived relation of rhyme to commercial cultiure in the eighteenth century, and the uses of the 'unheroic' form of the anapaestic tetrameter couplet in antislavery poetry.

I'm working on a book on poetry's role in the British abolitionism movement, and I continue to publish on Romantic form, especially in relation to poetic 'semblance': how poems speak about how the world seems to be, versus how it really is.



Philosophical Connections: Akenside, Neoclassicism, and Romanticism (Cambridge University Press, 2022)
George Berkeley and Romanticism: Ghostly Language (Oxford University Press, 2022)

—'Poetic Injustice: Blank-Verse Abolitionism and Cowper’s The Task', European Romantic Review (forthcoming, 2024)
—'What Rhymes with Misogyny? Rossetti, Dickinson, and Plath at Rhyme's Limit', Poetics Today, vol. 44, no. 3 (2023), pp. 347-378
—‘Pope’s Openers and the Almost Four-Beat Dunciad’, English Studies, 2023
—‘Semblances of Truth: “The Romantic Lyric” in Lyric Studies’, Literature Compass, 2023
—'Lyric Over-Hearing: Wordsworth’s Intent to Steal', Critical Quarterly, 2022
'Semblance and the Romantic Lyric'European Romantic Review, vol. 33, no. 1 (2022), pp. 25-41.
—'Meter and Modernist Prose: Verse Fragments in Woolf’s The Years'Modernism/Modernity,vol. 28, no. 3 (2021), pp. 475-96.
—'Aesthetics for Idiots: Truth and Beauty in Elif Batuman’s The Idiot', Critique, 2021
—'"The Very Music of the Name": Uncertainty as Aesthetic Principle in Keats's Endymion'NIneteenth Century Literature, vol. 71, no. 4 (2021), pp. 441-472
'"Nothing but thought, was it?": George Berkeley’s Philosophy in Woolf’s The Years”, Forum for Modern Language Studies, vol. 57, no. 1 (2021), pp. 21-29
—'Visionary Immaterialism: Berkeleian Empiricism in Blake’s Poetry', Studies in Romanticism, vol. 58, no. 3 (2019), pp. 357–382
—“Almost-Poetics: Prose Rhythm in Berkeley’s Siris”, Philosophy and Literature, vol. 43, no. 2 (2019), pp. 336–349
—'Nature and the Language of the Sense: Berkeley’s Thought in Coleridge and Wordsworth'Romanticism, vol. 25, no. 2 (2019), pp. 129–142

Book chapters:
—‘The British Empiricists’, Percy Shelley in Context, ed. Ross Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)


I received my B.A. from the University of Exeter, and my M.Phil. and Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, where I also taught for four years. I took up the role of Research Fellow in the School of English in September 2023, but I was previously a visiting Fleeman Fellow here in 2018.