Current Research Interests

Kevin Binfield
Professor of English and Humanities

My current research centers on laboring-class writing of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  My near-term research in this area comprises an MLA Options for Teaching volume titled Teaching Laboring-Class British Literature of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries; an anthology of poetry written by domestic servants; a monograph on the place of laboring-class writing in Romanticism; and articles on laboring-class autobiography, Frances Greensted and Romantic epitaphs, and the Irish poet and dramatist Mary Balfour.
 My longer-term projects include an edition of agricultural protest writing in England from 1792 to 1840, a multidisciplinary collection of essays on Luddism and its legacies, an edition of selected prophetic writings of Joanna Southcott, and a multi-volume classroom anthology of laboring-class British literature.

Having shed the 1980s and 1990s fashion for theory, I approach texts through a consideration of form that is guided by an awareness of the material and rhetorical contexts in which those texts were written.  Much of my work touches upon social history (or, in the phrasing of the 1960s and 1970s, "history from below"), although I take issue with many historians' easy dismissal of the laboring classes generally and their writing particularly.  I am less interested in who did what than in what "who" was thinking.  I am especially interested in the rhetorical means that laboring-class writers use to situate themselves and their works as worthy of literary consideration or, in cases of protest writing, as conveying social ideas deserving of scrutiny.

Much of my research is archival, and I attempt, in my scholarly editing, to provide as much context from archives, manuscripts, and contemporary sources as is useful and appropriate.