Professor Philip Smallwood

Philip Smallwood

Emeritus Professor of English

School of English

Philip Smallwood, BA (Oxon), M.Phil (Oxon), Ph.D. (London), is Emeritus Professor of English at Birmingham City University and at different times Honorary Visiting Fellow and Honorary Senior Teaching Associate in the Department of English, Bristol University. His teaching and research interests are in the late seventeenth and in the eighteenth century, especially the poetry and criticism of John Dryden, Alexander Pope and Samuel Johnson. Other active interests include the history, practice, and theory of literary criticism of all periods, aesthetics, the theory of history, and the writings of the British philosopher R.G. Collingwood.

Over the last two or three decades, and in addition to numerous essays, chapters, and reviews, Professor Smallwood has published 5 monographs, an anthology, edited texts and manuscripts, together with several edited collections of essays. His books include Modern Critics in Practice: Critical Portraits of British Literary Critics (1990), Johnson Re-Visioned: Looking Before and After (2001; 2nd. ed. 2009), the monograph Reconstructing Criticism: Pope’s “Essay on Criticism” and the Logic of Definition (2003) and in 2004 there appeared his widely-reviewed study of Johnson’s criticism and historical thought, Johnson’s Critical Presence: Image, History, Judgment.

His edited collection of essays, Critical Pasts: Writing Criticism, Writing History was published in the same year, and in 2005 (2nd. ed. 2007) the co-edited volume, with Wendy James and David Boucher, for Oxford University Press, of R.G. Collingwood’s Philosophy of Enchantment, an edition of previously unpublished material on the European folktale, with other cultural and critical essays.

More recently (2009) Professor Smallwood has co-edited Samuel Johnson After 300 Years for CUP. His monograph, Critical Occasions: Dryden, Pope, Johnson and the History of Criticism, was published in 2011, and in collaboration with Dr. Min Wild of Plymouth University, a hybrid volume collecting satirical attacks on literary critics in the eighteenth century and entitled Ridiculous Critics: Augustan Mockery of Critical Judgment (2014; paperback 2016). Alongside new essays on Johnson and on Pope, Professor Smallwood has completed a new monograph for Cambridge University Press entitled The Literary Criticism of Samuel Johnson: Forms of Artistry and Thought.

Several of Professor Smallwood’s volumes have been the subject of positive reviews in the Times Literary Supplement while both Johnson’s Critical Presence and Ridiculous Critics have won Choice American Library Association awards as ‘Outstanding Academic Titles’ for the years 2005 and 2015 respectively.

Professor Smallwood has lectured in Britain, the USA, China and New Zealand; he has been awarded Visiting Research Fellowships at the Lewis Walpole Library of Yale University (2000), the School of Advanced Studies of London University (2000), St. John’s College, Oxford University (2003), and in 2013 was Andrew Mellon/American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Research Fellow at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas. From 2010 he has been Honorary Visiting Fellow, Senior Associate Teacher and then Senior Honorary Teaching Associate in the Department of English, Bristol University.

He is a former Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, an Arts and Humanities Research Board and British Academy award holder, an elected member of the US Johnsonians, and has been an invited speaker at universities including Virginia, Bristol, Bucknell, Columbia, London, Penn State and the University of the Chinese Academy of the Social Sciences in Beijing. He is a member of the editorial board of the journal Eighteenth-Century Life and has advised extensively on publications, research proposals and professorial appointments and promotions in both Britain and the United States. Professor Smallwood was Head of the School of English at BCU from 1990 to 1997 and from 1991-1993 was a consultant to the Higher Education Quality Council reporting on measures for ensuring academic quality in British universities.

In December 2018, at the invitation of the Johnson Society of London, Professor Smallwood gave the Richard Thrale Memorial Lecture on ‘Johnson’s Compassion’ and an address in Westminster Abbey prior to laying a wreath on the tomb of Samuel Johnson.