Professor Martin Willis
I joined the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University in September 2015 as Professor of English Literature. Before that I held a Personal Chair in Science, Literature and Communication in the Department of English at the University of Westminster.
My research focuses on literature, science and medicine, 1800 to the present.
Of my eight books in this area, the most recent are Literature and Science (Palgrave, 2015) andVision, Science and Literature, 1870-1920: Ocular Horizons (Pickering & Chatto, 2011). My present research has two strands: the representations of seizure conditions in literature and art from the early nineteenth century to the present, and the depiction of science and medicine in Victorian travel guidebooks to Britain and Europe.
My contribution to this area of scholarship is also recognised in my position as Chair of the British Society for Literature and Science and as Editor of the Journal of Literature and Science.
My teaching expertise is in Literature and Science, Literature and Medicine, and more broadly in Nineteenth-century Literature. My central teaching focus, however, emerges from my research on the relationships between literature, science and medicine: what might be called the Science Humanities. I have taught this widely, to both undergraduate and postgraduate students and have supervised MA and PhD research in this area.
In addition I have had the opportunity to influence the research and teaching of literature, science and medicine internationally through cross-University initiatives, external examining, and a range of international lectures, seminars and public activities.
I would welcome enquiries from potential research students interested in studying literature, science and medicine; and queries from public groups or media outlets interested in my research and scholarship.
For further information on my present research projects and publications please click the relevant tab above.
I joined the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University in September 2015 as Professor of English Literature.
Before that I held a Personal Chair in Science, Literature and Communication in the Department of English at the University of Westminster. I have also worked previously at the Universities of Edinburgh, Worcester and Glamorgan (now South Wales). I undertook my doctoral work at the University of Edinburgh. At Westminster and at Glamorgan I was also the Director of the Centre for the Study of Science and Imagination and the Research Centre for Literature, Arts and Science, the latter funded by HEFCW.
Presently I also hold a position as Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Cardiff School of Medicine, where I advise on medical education and the history of medicine.
On a personal level, I was born and brought up in Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, in whose University I was privileged to read English Literature and Language as an undergraduate at the end of the 1980s.
My research focuses on the study of the inter-relationships between literature, science and medicine. My first monograph, Mesmerists, Monsters and Machines: Science Fiction and the Cultures of Science in the Nineteenth Century (2006) reconsidered canonical nineteenth-century science fictions in the context of the history of science.
My second monograph, Vision, Science and Literature, 1870-1920: Ocular Horizons (2011) investigated Victorian and modern ways of seeing in the visual sciences, literature and dramatic performance. In 2012, this book was awarded both the British Society for Literature and Science Book Prize and the European Society for the Study of English Cultural Studies Book Prize.
I have also published two books aimed at undergraduates and postgraduates interested in the Victorian period and in literature and science. The Victorian Literature Handbook, which I edited with my long-time collaborator, Alex Warwick, was published in 2010 and Literature and Science: A Readers’ Guide to Essential Criticism was published in 2015.
My present research has two directions. First, I am beginning the work for a monograph on the roles and representations of science and medicine in travel guidebooks to Britain and Europe from the 1830s to the present.
Looking across a huge range of such guidebooks, including those published by and for the British Association for the Advancement of Science (a key case study) I am asking how far, and in what ways, the literary imagination played a role in their writing, modes of representation, dissemination and use.
Second, I am investigating seizure conditions in literature, visual art and medicine, with a particular interest in how these are presently understood by medical humanities scholarship. I am considering, for example, catalepsy in the Victorian period and epilepsy in the contemporary world. The most recent output from this project has been a gallery of seizure images, funded by the AHRC and hosted on their website from November 2015.
Much of my collaborative work on science and medicine is undertaken with Professor Keir Waddington, historian of medicine at Cardiff University. Together we lead the Collaborative Interdisciplinary Study of Science, Medicine and Imagination Research Group.
I have led research projects related to all of my areas of interest with the support of funding awards from the AHRC, British Academy, The Wellcome Trust, HEFCW, Strategic Insight Programme, and Cardiff Humanities Research Institute.