Professor Valerie Purton

Professor of English Literature

Faculty:Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences

Department:Department of English and Media

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: English literature

Courses taught: English Literature, Drama and English Literature, Philosophy and English Literature

Valerie is fascinated by myth, not only in the Classical and Medieval periods, but also in contemporary fiction, especially in the twentieth century novel, and has published works about Iris Murdoch, Kazuo Ishiguro and Tony Harrison.



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Valerie read English at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she was an Exhibitioner, and then spent several years travelling and teaching, first in Ghana, West Africa, and then in Canada, where she taught at the Universities of Alberta and Saskatchewan. She also worked in local radio in Canada, presenting her own radio talk slot. Upon returning to England she worked at an immigrant teaching scheme in Nottingham while gaining a Distinction in the University of Nottingham's PGCE programme. She taught in schools and with the Open University and then designed and ran the English Honours Degree Pathway at City College, Norwich, under the auspices of what was then Anglia Polytechnic University. Valerie was appointed to a full-time post at Anglia Ruskin University in 2006, promoted to Reader in 2008 and then to Professor in 2012.

Valerie's principal research interests are in the Victorian period and in the works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Charles Dickens. She is a member of the Executive Committee and the Publications Board of the International Tennyson Society and succeeded Dr Robert Douglas-Fairhurst of Magdalen College Oxford as Editor of the Tennyson Research Bulletin in 2011. In 2009 she produced a celebratory bicentenary CD of readings of Tennyson's poetry by such figures as Sir John Mortimer, Lord Healey, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the then Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Lynn Truss, which has sold worldwide.

Valerie organised a bicentenary conference on Charles Dickens in 2012 and a conference on John Ruskin in April 2015.

Research interests

  • Victorian literature (esp. the works of Alfred Tennyson and Charles Dickens)

Areas of research supervision

Valerie is currently supervising dissertations on Charles Dickens, Edmund Gosse, Oscar Wilde and Constance Naden.


Valerie teaches modules on the Victorians, the Medieval period (she designed and runs the Year 2 module Myth and Medievalism) and critical theory.


  • MA (Cantab)
  • PhD (University of East Anglia)

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Member of the Executive Committee and the Publications Board of the International Tennyson Society
  • Peer reviewer for the Iris Murdoch Review, published by Kingston University Press
  • Advises Longman and Palgrave on manuscripts about Murdoch, Dickens and Tennyson submitted for publication

Selected recent publications


Two-Way Traffic: New Directions in Victorian Literature and Science, Anthem Press. A collection of essays based on papers given at the 2009 Darwin/Tennyson conference. Forthcoming.

The Palgrave Literary Dictionary of Tennyson, co-authored with Professor Norman Page, 2010. 340pp. ISBN: 978-1-4039-4317-0.

A monograph, Evolution and the Idylls of the King, submitted to Continuum Press.

An Iris Murdoch Chronology in the Palgrave/Macmillan Chronology series (85,000 words, published in UK and USA, 2007. (201 pages).

A Coleridge Chronology (Macmillan 1993). This book is still in print, is still bringing in royalties, and has been sold worldwide.

Poems by Two Brothers: the Poetry of Tennyson's Father and Uncle (Paul Watkins, 1993) (co-authored with Christopher Sturman).


Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son. Edited with an Introduction and Notes (Everyman, 1996).

Christopher Sturman, Landscape and Friendship: Essays on Tennyson and Lincolnshire Edited with an Introduction and notes (Paul Watkins, 2000).

Chapters in Books

'The Reader in the Floating World: the Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro' in Norman Page and Peter Preston (eds.) The Literature of Place. (Macmillan, 1993).

'Homer for Today: The Memory of Troy in the Works of Derek Walcott and Tony Harrison' in Igor Navratil (ed.). Appropriations and Impositions: National, Regional and Sexual Identity in Literature (Brataslava: Narodne literarne centrum, 1997).

Articles in Scholarly Journals

'Tennyson, Heidegger and the Problematics of 'Home',' accepted for publication by Victorian Poetry.

' 'Nobody's Fault': Little Dorrit, Andrew Davies and the Art of Adaptation' in Journal of Victorian Culture Vol. 15: 1 (April 2010), pp. 131-135.

'Iris Murdoch and the Art of Dedication,' Iris Murdoch Review Vol 1, No 1, January 2008 pp.

'The Divided Self: A New Reading of Tennyson's Balin and Balan.' Philological Quarterly (Vol. 84, No. 3, Fall 2007), 357-376.

'Dickens, Robert Lytton and a Newly-Discovered Letter.' Dickensian (No.469 Vol.102, Summer 2006), 101-116.

'Tennyson and the Figure of Christ,' Tennyson Research Bulletin, (Vol.8 No.2 2003), 85-100.

'Thomas Linley: A Lost Lincolnshire Link' in All Things Lincolnshire: A Festschrift for David N. Robinson, eds. Jean Howard and David Start, Society of Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, 207, 170-174.

'The Two Voices: The Divided Style in Dickens and His Contemporaries' Prose Studies 7, May 1984, 38-54.

'The Sentimental Heroine in Dickens and Collins' A Review of International English Literature (A.R.I.E.L.) 16, January 1985, 77-89.

'Dickens and Bulwer Lytton: The Dandy Reclaimed?' Dickensian 74, January 1978, 25-9.

'Dickens and "Cheap Melodrama" ' Etudes Anglaises 28 (1975) 22-26.

'Henry James's The Turn of the Screw and Fielding's Amelia,' Explicator 34 (1975)


Gustave Dore's London, Arcturus Press, 2008 (1500-word Introduction and selection of Victorian extracts to accompany Dore's 1870 etchings of London. 384pp).

Tennyson's Legends of King Arthur: Idylls of the King. Illustrated by Gustav Dore. Arcturus Press, 2009. 1500-word Introduction and selection of extracts from Tennyson's Idylls. 256 pp.

Biographical Entries

Richmal Crompton, Ethel M.Dell and Jane Gardam in Janet Todd ed. British Women Writers (Longman 1989).

D.K.Broster, Jane Carlyle, Frances Cornford, Dinah Mulock Craik, Hannah Cullwick, Eleanor Farjeon, Mary Elizabeth Frere and Jean Ingelow in Lorna Sage ed. The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English (C.U.P. 1999).

Encyclopaedia Entries

'Dickens and Work' (3000 words) and 'Dickens and Servants' (1000 words) in Paul Schlicke ed. Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens (O.U.P. 1999)

'Iris Murdoch's A Fairly Honourable Defeat' in Lorna Sage ed. The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English (C.U.P. 1999).

Commissioned Reviews

Reviews for The Dickensian:

Leon Litvack, Charles Dickens' Dombey and Son: An Annotated Bibliography (AMS Press Inc. New York 1999) Dickensian 96: 3 (Winter 2000), 247-249.

Birkbeck, University of London, Pickwick Day, Dickensian 1986; Oliver Day, 197; Nickleby Day 1988; Little Nell Day 1990; Barnaby Rudge Day, 1991; Scrooge Day 1993; David Copperfield, 1999; Bleak House, 2000; Hard Times, 2001; Little Dorrit, 2002; A Tale of Two Cities, 2004; Great Expectations, 2006; Our Mutual Friend Day, 2006; Drood Day, 2007. I have already been asked by Professor Sally Ledger to act as regular reviewer for the new series of Birkbeck Study Days which begins in October 2008.

Fred Kaplan, Sacred Tears, Dickensian (Spring 1989).

BBC TV's Martin Chuzzlewit (Spring 1995).

Reviews for the Tennyson Research Bulletin:

Aidan Day, Tennyson's Scepticism (2006) TRB Vol.8 No.1 (2007), 126-128.

Roger Ebbatson, An Imaginary England: Nation, Landscape and Literature 1840-1920 (Ashgate, 2005) TRB Vol. 8, No.5 (2006), 398-401.

Adam Roberts ed. Alfred Tennyson: A Critical Edition (O.U.P. 2000) and Robert W.Hill ed. Tennyson's Poetry (Norton Critical Edition, 1999) TRB Vol.7 No.4 (2000), 204-207.