Dr Ryan Sweet

Dr Ryan Sweet

Lecturer in English, Creative Writing or History - Foundation Stage Lead

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


I lead the Humanities Foundation Stage, which forms the first year of the University of Plymouth's four-year programmes BA (Hons) English with Foundation, BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing with Foundation, and BA (Hons) History with Foundation. As a first generation graduate from a working-class Cornish background, I am highly and personally invested in the project of widening participation. Before taking up my position as Lecturer in English and Foundation Stage Lead in September 2018, I held a Wellcome Trust-funded ISSF Research Fellowship at the University of Leeds (2017-18) and taught on an hourly-paid basis at the University of Exeter (2013-2017), Bath Spa University (2016-17), and Plymouth (2017). I completed my PhD in English at Exeter in July 2016.

My research centres on representations of disability and the technologies and nonhumans that assist physically and/or cognitively different humans, with a particular focus on nineteenth-century literature and culture. My first book, Prosthetic Body Parts in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture is under contract with Palgrave Macmillan and will be published in open access format in 2019-20.


PhD in English, University of Exeter, 2012-16;

MA in English (Victorian Studies Pathway), University of Exeter, 2011-12;

BA (Hons) in English, University of Exeter, 2008-11. 

Professional membership

  • The Arts Institute, University of Plymouth.
  • British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS).
  • Disability Research Group, Carleton University.

Roles on external bodies

I have provided reviews of scholarly work for:

Canadian Journal of Disability Studies;

Literature & History;

Victorian Literature and Culture;

Liverpool University Press.

Teaching interests

Victorian literature and culture; literature and medicine; medical humanities; disability studies; critical animal studies; Foundation-Stage teaching.

This year (2018-19), I am convening three modules on the Humanities Foundation Stage:

HUM001 Stories that Changed the World;

HUM003 Writing the Now: Literature, History, and Visual Culture;

HUM004 Independent Project.

I am also teaching on the Year 1 module ENGL406 Gods, Monsters, and Heroes: Myths and Legends in Literature.

Research interests

Victorian literature and culture; literature and medicine; medical humanities; disability studies; critical animal studies.

Grants & contracts


My first book, Prosthetic Body Parts in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture, is under contract with Palgrave Macmillan and is due to be published with them in 2019.

Major Funding Awards and Scholarships

2017: Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund award via University of Leeds to support an Early Career Fellowship project on disability and animality in nineteenth-century literature and culture (£50,000).

2015: Wellcome Trust Small Grant for travel bursaries for delegates attending the “Postgraduate Medical Humanities Conference 2015” (£1,600).

2015: Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund award via University of Exeter to support organising the public engagement event “Exewhirr: A Workshop for Artists and Academics on the Human-Technology Relationship” (£4,636).

2012-15: AHRC Medical Humanities PhD Studentship (c.£17,440 annually).


Prosthetic Body Parts in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture

  • Under contract with Palgrave Macmillan
  • Book series: Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture.

Published Articles

“‘A Human Bundle’: The Disaggregated Other at the Fin de Siècle.” Victorian Review vol.40, no. 1, 2014, pp. 14­–18.

Book Chapters

“Physical ‘Wholeness’ and‘Incompleteness’ in Victorian Prosthesis Narratives.” Literature and Medicine in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Andrew Mangham, Cambridge University Press. (Book under contract; chapter accepted subject to minor corrections on 16 May 2018)

“Pirates and Prosthetics: Manly Messages for Managing Limb Loss in Victorian and Edwardian Adventure Narratives.” The Victorian Male Body: The Diverse Embodiment of White Masculinity in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Joanne Parsons and Ruth Heholt,Edinburgh University Press, 2018, pp. 87–107.

“‘Get the best article in the market’: Prostheses for Women in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Commerce.” Rethinking Modern Histories of Prostheses in Anglo-American Commodity Cultures, 1850–1960, edited by Claire L. Jones, Manchester University Press, 2017, pp. 114–36.

Contributions to Published Scholarly Editions

Hall, Jason David, and Ryan Sweet. Explanatory Notes. Jezebel’s Daughter, by Wilkie Collins, edited by Jason David Hall, Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 254–66.

Published Contributions to Peer-Reviewed Digital Resources

“An Essay on Wooden Legs,with some Account of Herr von Holtzbein [Excerpt].” Nineteenth-Century Disability: Cultures& Contexts, 2013, http://www.nineteenthcenturydisability.org/items/show/24.

“Our Mutual Friend[Excerpt].” Nineteenth-Century Disability: Cultures & Contexts, 2013, http://www.nineteenthcenturydisability.org/items/show/25.

“The Bertrams [Excerpt].” Nineteenth-Century Disability: Cultures & Contexts, 2012, http://www.nineteenthcenturydisability.org/items/show/16.

“The Food of the Gods and How it Came to Earth [Excerpt].” Nineteenth-Century Disability:Cultures & Contexts, 2012, http://www.nineteenthcenturydisability.org/items/show/15.

(Nineteenth-Century Disability: Cultures and Contexts is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed collection of primary texts and images about physical and cognitive disability in the long nineteenth century. Each entry features a scholarly introduction and footnote commentary. The resource is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and affiliated with NINES: Nineteenth-Century Scholarship Online.)

Invited Research Blog Posts

“Legs of Wegg and Others.” Dickens Our Mutual Friend Reading Project, 5 Aug. 2015,  https://dickensourmutualfriend.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/month-16-august-1865-legs-of-wegg-and-others/#more-543.

“Eroticising Amputation:Thoughts on Rust and Bone (2012).” University of Exeter Screentalks Blog,19 Nov. 2013, http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/screentalks/blog/2013/11/19/eroticising-amputation-thoughts-on-rust-and-bone-2012/.  

Published Reviews

Review of Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure, edited by Kathryn Allan. Literature & History, vol. 24, no.1, 2015, pp.106–8.

“A Felt Experience:Touching the Book at Birkbeck, London.” Victorian Literature and Culture vol. 43, no. 1, 2015, pp. 195–202.

Review of Reading Victorian Deafness: Signs and Sounds in Victorian Literature and Culture,by Jennifer Esmail. Literature & History, vol. 23, no.1, 2014, pp. 82–4.


Reports & invited lectures

Plenary Talks

“Legs that Kill: Artificial Limbs in Nineteenth-Century Literature.” “Corporeal Diversity:Medical Prosthetics, Past, Present, and Future.” 20 July 2016, St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff.

Other Invited Talks

“Developing Your Academic Identity: Beyond the PhD.” “BAVS Annual Conference 2018.” 29 August 2018,University of Exeter.

“‘[A]warning to others,by gum!': Gendered Representations of Malfunctioning False Teeth in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture.” “Oral Health Inequalities, Oral Hygiene Cultures: Past, Present and Future.” 28­ June 2018, University of Kent.

“‘Hands so tinily,delicately lovely were never imitated by sculptor’: Challenging Prostheses for“Passing” in Robert Williams Buchanan’s ‘Lady Letitia's Lilliput Hand’ (1862).”“Medical History and Humanities Research Seminar.” 6 June 2018,University of Exeter.

“Wooden-Limbed Livestock and Prostheticised Pets: Prostheses for Animals in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Press.” “‘Going to the Dogs?’ A Workshop Series on Research at the Intersection of Disability and Animal Studies”, 13 Apr.2018, University of Leeds.

“Prosthesis Use and Social Transgression in Robert William Buchanan’s ‘Lady Letitia's Lilliput Hand’ (1862).” “Medical and Metaphorical Wounds from the Middle Ages to the Boer War”, 16 Mar. 2018, Science Museum, London.

“Normalcy Interrogated:Prosthetic Hand Users in Victorian Sensation-Fiction Narratives.” “Constructing Scientific Communities and Diseases of Modern Life Seminar Series”, 13 Feb.2018, St Anne’s College, University of Oxford.

“The Social Construction of Physical “Wholeness” and Its Critique in Two Victorian Artificial-Hand Narratives.” “Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies Research Seminar”, 24 Jan.2018, University of Leeds.

“Complicating ‘Completeness’:Artificial Hands in Victorian Sensation Fiction.” “Institute of Historical Research Disability History Seminar Series”, 4 Dec. 2017, Institute of Historical Research, London.

“Cattle with Wooden Legs in the Nineteenth-Century British Periodical Press.” “Leeds Animal Studies Network Seminar Series”, 25 Oct. 2017, University of Leeds.

“‘Down came the limb with a frightful smash’: Prosthesis as Weapon in Nineteenth-Century Literature.”“Centre for Victorian Studies Seminar Series”, 18 Nov. 2013,University of Exeter.

“Frightening Physiognomy:One-Eyedness and Primitive Ocular Prosthesis in Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby.”“Tremough Visiting Speakers Seminar Series”, 24 Oct. 2012, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus.


Twitter: @RyanCSweet