Dr Michael J. Sullivan is a Research Fellow at Christ Church, University of Oxford, and General Editor with Catherine Phillips of The Complete Works of Alfred Tennyson for Oxford University Press. His interests span the poetics and verse cultures of the eighteenth and long nineteenth centuries, with publications on Victorian and Romantic literature and a special interest in the works of Tennyson, Byron, Wordsworth, and Dickinson. He is a past holder of the Rodney G. Dennis Visiting Fellowship in the Study of Manuscripts at the Houghton Library, Harvard, and his work on Tennyson’s revisions – which he began at Trinity College, Cambridge – won the 2016 Gordon Duff Prize in the Arts of Manuscripts.
While General Editing The Complete Works of Alfred Tennyson, Michael is Guest Editor of Special Issues of the Tennyson Research Bulletin (forthcoming in 2020) and Victorian Poetry (2021). Since 2017, he has been an Executive Member of the Tennyson Society, a registered charity with academic and outreach agenda, and in 2019 he organised an international conference in Tennyson Studies at Christ Church, Oxford. At Cambridge and Oxford, he founded the ‘Editing the Long Nineteenth Century’ seminar (2014, 2018), which hosted speakers from across the UK to advance the often-unwritten practices and principles of textual criticism.
Michael completed his PhD in English Literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, after studying for the MPhil in Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Studies, both funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Prior to his postgraduate research, he graduated from the University of Durham, where he was a Vice-Chancellor’s Scholar and winner of the T. W. Craik, Brooks Johnson, and J. R. Watson prizes, for the highest performance in the Shakespeare and overall Finals Examinations. He was educated at state schools in Yorkshire, and contributes to access, outreach, and public engagement for literature and the humanities.
His wider research interests are in the development of genre in the long nineteenth century, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Matthew Arnold, Thomas Hardy, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Emily Brontë. Current thematic research interests include the development of the verse novel, print and manuscript cultures since 1700, lyric studies and the musicality of verse, the role of lyric anthologies in canon creation and periodisation, the origins and legacies of ‘Romanticism’, the influence of sceptical philosophy and aesthetics on English verse, Anglo-American intersections, editing and textual criticism, and temporality in narrative verse. He has supervised dissertations on a range of topics within Romantic and Victorian literature, from Hopkins’s religious orders to the manuscripts of Elizabeth Siddal and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Tennyson and the Revision of Song
Among Michael’s current projects is the first book-length study of Tennyson’s manuscript revisions, and their role in the development of his style. Its chapters examine how Tennyson’s notebooks record a series of profound shifts in the style of English verse and versification, stretching from the Romantics to the end of the nineteenth century. Uncovering new manuscripts from Cambridge, Lincoln, and Harvard, the monograph traces how literary modes – from the lyric to the epic – were altered on the page, as new movements modified the conventions of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Extensive archival research for this study was supported by a Rodney G. Dennis Visiting Fellowship in the Study of Manuscripts at the Houghton Library, Harvard, which offered the resources to consult over 70 notebooks and 300 folders of Tennyson’s drafts and correspondence. Chapters arising from this research have been published in Essays in Criticism and Literary Imagination, and the resulting articles examine Tennyson’s selection of poems for The Golden Treasury (1861), the most influential lyric anthology of the nineteenth century. By considering the anthology’s fair copy alongside a rediscovered revision copy, the articles shed new light on Tennyson’s poetic influences, and on his aesthetic control over the formation of a Victorian literary canon.
The Complete Works of Alfred Tennyson, 9 volumes (Oxford University Press)
General Editor: Dr Michael Sullivan (Oxford)
Advisory General Editor: Dr Catherine Phillips (Cambridge)
The Complete Works of Alfred Tennyson for Oxford University Press will be the first edition to include the full manuscript variants of Tennyson’s poetry, with the author’s spelling and the original order of publication. The advisory board comprises Dr Nicolas Bell (Cambridge), Professor Nora Crook (Anglia Ruskin), Professor Stephen Gill (Oxford), Professor Daniel Karlin (Bristol), Professor Peter McDonald (Oxford), Professor Marion Shaw (Loughborough), and Professor Jane Stabler (St Andrews).