Dr David Sergeant
Associate Professor of Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature
School of Humanities and Performing Arts (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)
My research focuses on literature from the late nineteenth century to the present day. My first monograph, Kipling’s Art of Fiction, was published by Oxford University Press in 2013, and I have co-edited collections of essays on Robert Burns and Doris Lessing with Edinburgh University Press. From January 2018 to January 2020 I will be an AHRC ECR Leadership Fellow, exploring contemporary representations of the near future: a project that touches on issues of genre and periodisation, time studies, and the environmental humanities.
Ideas drawn from this research are also informing a series of 'utopian feasts', held in partnership with Regen, a green energy not-for-profit, and various communities across South Devon who are interested in how we might transition to a more sustainable energy system; with international contributors from a range of disciplines and backgrounds – from novelists to sociologists to historians to chefs – also contributing their thoughts on what might be involved in turning an everyday meal into something more utopian. You can read their contributions here – https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/feasts-for-the-future – as well as see more about the utopian feasts that have already taken place.
My own fiction and poetry has appeared in The Dublin Review, Poetry Review, PN Review, Poetry Ireland, Poetry Wales, Rialto, the Guardian, the Forward Book of Poetry and elsewhere; I have also published two collections of poetry, the most recent being The Pronoun Utopia (Green Bottle Press, 2017). A collaboration for Faber with the composer Martin Suckling was performed at the Royal Opera House in 2014.
I took a BA, MSt and DPhil from the University of Oxford, where I was also the Mary Ewart Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College from 2010–2013. I joined English and Creative Writing at Plymouth in 2013; since I grew up and went to school in Cornwall, this has also meant a return to my Westcountry educational roots …
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 have taught on include:
- Gothic Fictions: Villains, Virgins, Vampires
- Victorian Literature and Culture
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, as well as a creative writing PhD focusing on psychogeography and alternative histories in Cornwall; I have also co-supervised several creative writing PhDs to completion (fiction and poetry). I am always keen to hear from prospective doctoral students interested in topics 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
My doctoral thesis, published as a monograph by OUP, focused on how Kipling's narratives evolved in relation to changing readerships, and historical and personal circumstances. More recently I have completed work – published or forthcoming – on R. L. Stevenson, Doris Lessing, Kim Stanley Robinson and Ben Lerner. From January 2018 to January 2020 I will be an AHRC ECR Leadership Fellow, exploring contemporary representations of the near future: a project that touches on issues of genre and periodisation, time studies, scale and planetarity, and the environmental humanities.
Ideas drawn from this research are also being fed into work with a partnering not-for-profit and communities looking to reimagine the way they live now; with a range of international contributors also contributing their thoughts on what might be involved in turning an everyday meal into something more utopian. Contributors have so far included Kim Stanley Robinson, Ruth Levitas, Garrett Broad, Jason R Kennedy, Tim Waterman, Iwona Janicka, Susan Parham, Justine de Valicourt and Pamela Pilbeam, with more in the pipeline for the coming months. You can read their work here – https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/feasts-for-the-future – as well as see more about the utopian feasts that have already taken place.
My own poetry and fiction have appeared in numerous publications in the UK and internationally; I have also published two collections of poetry and a collaboration with the composer Martin Suckling, as well as essays on Ted Hughes and Robert Burns.
I co-lead the "Environment Cultures" cluster in Plymouth's Arts Institute, am a member of the Operations Team for the Sustainable Earth Institute, and am also involved with the Future Earth ECR network.
Articles and Essays
- ‘Fictions of Time and Space: from Realism to Utopia in Doris Lessing's The Four-Gated City.' Twentieth-Century Literature (forthcoming)
- ‘The Genre of the Near Future: Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140.' Genre (forthcoming)
- ‘Representing the Planet: Affect, Scale and Utopia'. Novel: a Forum on Fiction (forthcoming)
- ‘"The worst dreams that ever I have": Capitalism and the Romance in R. L. Stevenson's Treasure Island'. Victorian Literature and Culture 44: 4 (2016), 907-23.
- ‘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.
- 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.
- 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).
- '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.
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
- 2014, Doris Lessing 2014: An International Conference. Two day conference, University of Plymouth. Co-organiser with Kevin Brazil (Oxford) and Tom Sperlinger (Bristol).
- 2014, Poetry and Happenstance. One day symposium, Cambridge University. Co-organiser with Will May (Southampton) and Vidyan Ravinthiran (Durham).
- 2013, Smith School-TORCH (Oxford) Symposium, Mind the Environmental Gap. Co-Convenor (with Professor Daniel Grimley, Music) and Chair of‘ Footprints’ Panel. Interdisciplinary exploration of cultural aspects of societal engagement with environmental challenges.