Professor Philip Smallwood

Philip Smallwood

Emeritus Professor of English

School of English

Philip Smallwood is Emeritus Professor of English at Birmingham City University and from 2010 was Honorary Visiting Fellow and then Senior Associate Teacher in the Faculty of Humanities, University of Bristol where he directs a course on 'Literature: Milton to Johnson'. His 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 decades or so, and in addition to numerous essays, chapters, and reviews, Professor Smallwood has published an edited volume of essays, 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 his proze-winning and 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co-edited volume for Oxford University Press of R.G. Collingwood’s Philosophy of Enchantment, an edition of previously unpublished material on the European folktale, with other cultural and critical essays.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 with Professor Greg Clingham of Bucknell University a collection of tercentenary essays on Johnson for Cambridge University Press entitled Samuel Johnson After 300 Years. His latest monograph, Critical Occasions: Dryden, Pope, Johnson and the History of Criticism, was published in 2011, and his most recent book-length publication, in collaboration with Dr Min Wild of Plymouth University, is a prize-winning hybrid volume containing satirical attacks on literary critics in the eighteenth century and entitled Ridiculous Critics: Augustan Mockery of Critical Judgment (2014). He is presently working on a new study of Pope’s early poetry entitled “The Little Queen Anne’s Man: Pope’s Precocious Decade 1702-1714, and with Greg Clingham on a collection of essays provisionally entitled Improbable Johnsons, and including critical essays on Samuel Johnson’s affinities with major authors from Montaigne to Tolstoy. Forthcoming essays include ‘Tensions, Contrarieties and Blake’s Augustan Values’, 'Johnson and Emotion', 'Pope's Precocious Decade: Models of Literary History for the Age of Queen Anne' for Alexander Pope in the Time of Queen Anna, ‘Mirrored Minds: Johnson and Shakespeare’ and ‘Literary and Aesthetic Theory’ for the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Eighteenth-Century Thought.

Several of Professor Smallwood’s volumes have been the subject of 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 been a Visiting Fellow at the Lewis Walpole Library of Yale University (2000), the School of Advanced Studies of London University (2000), Visiting Scholar at St. John’s College, Oxford University (2003), and in 2013 Andrew Mellon/American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Research Fellow at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas. He is currently Senior Assocaite Teacher in the School of Humanities, Department of English, Bristol University. He is 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 Academcy of the Social Sciences. 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 responsible to government for reporting on academic quality in British universities.

In December 2018, at the invitiation 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 Samual Johnson.