Hello and welcome. I am Professor of Modern English Literature at the University of Lausanne. My background is trans-Atlantic: born in Oxford, I’ve lived in Toronto, New York, and South Yorkshire. After two years teaching at the Charles University in Prague, I became a lecturer at Sheffield University, in the UK’s beautiful Peak District. In 2010, I took up my current position at the University of Lausanne. ‘By the waters of Léman’ is an inspiring place to teach English Literature, since it is associated in various ways with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Byron’s The Prisoner of Chillon, P. B. Shelley’s Mont Blanc, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes, Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Muriel Spark’s Finishing School, John Le Carré’s The Constant Gardener, and Robert MacFarlane’s Mountains of the Mind.
My main area of expertise is the literary tradition of katabasis, or the descent to the underworld, such as we find in Gilgamesh, Homer, Virgil, Dante, and in our times, Primo Levi, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Alasdair Gray, and many modern and contemporary poets. I’m also particularly interested in Seamus Heaney’s poetry and prose, Kazuo Ishiguro’s memorious fictions, and contemporary poetry in the UK and Ireland. Previous research projects have focussed on Holocaust literature, crossover literature and re-reading; arts-science synergies; Bakhtinian dialogism; poetry, music and birdsong; and new nature writing. The most important challenge we face in our times is how to live sustainably with other forms of life on the earth. As a scholar in the humanities, part of my response to the environmental crisis consists of reading, teaching and writing about our changing relationship to the natural world.