Dr David Sergeant

Dr David Sergeant

Lecturer in English post-1850

School of Humanities and Performing Arts (Faculty of Arts & Humanities)


I am Lecturer in English Literature post-1850. I teach across the Victorian era and up to the present day; with my research interests spanning both fiction and poetry.


BA Hons, M.St., D.Phil (Oxford).

I also grew up and went to school in Cornwall, so teaching in Plymouth has meant a return to my Westcountry educational roots …

Roles on external bodies

·        The Ted Hughes Society Journal advisory board

·        The Kipling Journal editorial board

·        Peer reviewer for ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature; Journal of Comparative American Studies; The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History.  

Teaching interests


Undergraduate Teaching

I have taught topics and authors at undergraduate and postgraduate level from the late eighteenth century to the present day. At Plymouth I have designed and lead an undergraduate module on Apocalypse and the Modern Novel, which is informed by my research interest in issues such as global capitalism and environmental crisis, the evolution of the genre novel, and the representation of “unthinkable” change in literature: texts we study range from H. G. Wells to Kurt Vonnegut to Margaret Atwood. Other undergraduate modules I teach on include: 

·      Gothic Fictions: Villains, Virgins, Vampires

·      Victorian Literature and Culture

·      Modernism.


I have designed and led a Masters module on Poetry and the Environment, which covers some of the major landmarks in recent “eco-critical” thinking through an extended focus on poetry, ranging from Wordsworth and the Romantics to postcolonial Australian poetries. 

I am currently Director of Studies for a PhD on Golden Age detective fiction and its relation to modernity, and have co-supervised several creative writing PhDs (fiction and poetry). I am always keen to hear from prospective doctoral students interested in topics and authors relating to my research interests, or in fiction or poetry creative projects.



Staff serving as external examiners

External examiner, University of Exeter (Penryn): 2016/17-19/20

Research interests

My doctoral thesis, published as a monograph by OUP, focused on Kipling's use and abuse of fictional form. More recently I have completed work (published or forthcoming) on R. L. Stevenson, Doris Lessing, Kim Stanley Robinson and Ben Lerner. My next project will range from the late nineteenth century to the present, exploring how a series of writers' efforts to resist and bypass realism was bound up with their attempts to conceive of alternative modes of life: economic, environmental, societal. It will be especially concerned with concepts of utopia, the relation between narration and cognition (especially the embodied and the spatial, and the representation of complex wholes), and questions of scale (individual, community, globe).

I also have a long standing interest in poetic form, and have published work on Robert Burns and Ted Hughes. Another project will explore the relation between the idea of mimesis, the 'musicality' of poetry, and the representation of the environment, looking at figures including Wordsworth, Hopkins, Rich and Hughes. My own poetry has appeared in a collection with Shearsman Books, and numerous publications in the UK and abroad.

I am part of the "Environment and Literature" research cluster in English and Creative Writing, and take part in the work of the Arts Institute. I am also a member of the Operations Team for the Sustainable Earth Institute, and have given research papers at Plymouth's Cognition Institute.

Single-Authored Books

·        The Pronoun Utopia. Poems. London: Green Bottle Press, 2017. 

·         Kipling’s Art of Fiction. Oxford University Press, 2013.

·         Talk Like Galileo. Poems. Exeter: Shearsman Books, 2010.

Edited Collections

·         Doris Lessing and the Forming of History  (with Kevin Brazil and Tom Sperlinger). Edinburgh University Press, 2016.

·         Burns and Other Poets (with Fiona Stafford). Edinburgh University Press, 2012 (paperback 2013).

Book Chapters

·         'Doris Lessing and the Scale of Environmental Crisis’ in Doris Lessing and the Forming of History. Kevin Brazil, David Sergeant, Tom Sperlinger (eds). Edinburgh UP, 2016.

·         Ted Hughes’s Inner Music’ in Ted Hughes: From Cambridge to Collected. Terry Gifford, Neil Roberts, Mark Wormald (eds). Palgrave, 2013.

·         ‘Burns and the Performance of Form’ in Burns and Other Poets. Sergeant and Stafford (eds). EUP, 2012.

Articles and Essays

·         ‘"The worst dreams that ever I have": Capitalism and the Romance in R. L. Stevenson's Treasure Island'. Victorian Literature and Culture. Forthcoming.

·         ‘Moortown (Diary)’, introductory essay for the Ted Hughes Society website (2012). http://www.thetedhughessociety.org/moortowndiary.htm

·         ‘Kipling’s Descriptions’.  Essays in Criticism, 59: 4 (October 2009), 324-47. 

·          ‘Changes in Rudyard Kipling’s Fiction on his Return to Britain’. English Literature in Transition, 52: 2 (2009), 144-59.

·         ‘Whispering to the Converted: Narrative Communication in Kipling’s Letters of Marque and Indian Fiction’.  Modern Language Review, 104: 1 (January 2009), 26-40. 

·         ‘Kipling’s Compositional Practice in Two Manuscripts’. Notes and Queries, 55: 4 (December, 2008), 465-7.

Reviews in: The Oxonian Review of Books, Notes and Queries, Eyewear, Modern Languages Review, Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation Review.

Poems in: Acumen, Agenda, Ambit, Archipelago, Cake, Envoi, The Forward Book of Poetry, The Guardian, The London Magazine, New Welsh Review, NightTrain, the North, nthposition, Pen Pusher, Poetry Daily, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Review, PN Review, Poetry Wales, Prac Crit, The Reader, Rialto, Salzburg Review, Stand, Stride, the Warwick Review.


·      Songs from a Bright September, poems set to music by Martin Suckling (FaberMusic, 2014). Premiered by the Angell Trio and Matthew Rose at BlackheathHalls, Hartley Whitney and the Royal Opera House.

·      Poetry installation inexhibition 'Unnatural Pleasures', Radiant Spring Gallery, Plymouth,27 Feb. - 17 April 2015 

·      Poem taken out to sea by the Sonic Kayaks project