Michael Newton is a University Lecturer at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.
Fields of interest
I am a cultural historian, film critic, literary critic, editor and essayist, with a strong interest in our engagement with representations of the state of nature and with ‘the fantastic’, whether in art or in life. I am the author of two books of cultural history, Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children (Faber & Faber, 2002; Picador USA, 2004) and Age of Assassins: A History of Conspiracy and Political Violence, 1865-1981 (Faber, 2012). On film, I have written Show People: A History of the Film Star (Reaktion, 2019) and three books for the British Film Institute’s Film Classics series, on Kind Hearts and Coronets (2003), Rosemary’s Baby (2020), and It’s A Wonderful Life (2023). I have edited Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son (2004), Victorian Fairy Tales (2015), and an anthology, Origins of Science Fiction (2022) for Oxford World’s Classics, and Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent (2007) and The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories: From Elizabeth Gaskell to Ambrose Bierce (2010) for Penguin Classics. With Evert Jan van Leeuwen, I have edited Haunted Europe (Routledge 2019), a book of critical essays on how Britain has imagined Europe as a Gothic space.
I am presently writing a cultural history, Blithe Spirits and Demon Lovers: A History of Hauntings, Visitations and Other Encounters with the Supernatural World, both for Oxford University Press. In the spring of 2023, I shall be a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study in Amsterdam, where I’ll be working on links between literary Bohemia and radical assassins in London from the 1870s to the 1910s.
I was both an undergraduate and postgraduate in the English Department at University College London. From 1994-95, I was a visiting research fellow at Harvard University. In 1996, I was awarded a PhD for The Child of Nature: The Feral Child and the State of Nature; my supervisor was Professor Philip Horne, and the examiners were Professors Roy Porter and Tony Tanner. In London, between 1992 and 2003, I taught on a part-time or temporary full-time basis in the English Departments at UCL and Roehampton University, in the Cultural Studies Department at Central Saint Martins College, and also taught the Junior Seminar for Princeton University’s Study Abroad Programme at UCL. In 2003-4, I was a visiting lecturer at the Department of English at Princeton University. From 2004-6, I was a freelance writer, based in Berlin. I have been teaching English literature and film at Leiden University since 2006. In the spring of 2023, I am a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in Amsterdam.
In addition to my academic writing, I co-wrote and co-edited The Movie Book (Phaidon Press, 1999), was a theatre reviewer for What’s On Magazine, wrote interviews for Arts International, and have written reviews and articles for The Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, Times Higher Education Supplement, Poetry Review, The New Statesman, and London Review of Books. In 1992, I was awarded the Fabian Society’s Webb Essay Prize, and in 2010 I won the Royal Society of Literature’s V. S. Pritchett Short Story Prize.
At Leiden I am responsible for the teaching of nineteenth and early twentieth-century literature in English, and also a course introducing Anglo-American film. I have also strong teaching interests in prose fiction from Austen to Blixen, in British and American film, and in Shakespeare. I have convened MA courses on:
- London in Literature and Film, 1800-2000
- Gothic Fictions from James Hogg to David Lynch
- The Comic Spirit: Introduction to Comedy
- A Short Course About Love
- The Short Story in English, 1870-1970
- The Literature of the Fantastic, 1880-1980
- Alfred Hitchcock
- September 2019: Show People: A History of the Film Star (London: Reaktion Books) (444 pages) (Chinese edition due out in 2023.)
- October 2012: Age of Assassins: A History of Assassination in Europe and America, 1865-1981 (London: Faber and Faber)(726 pages). (Paperback edition published in September 2013.)
- August 2003: Kind Hearts and Coronets (in the BFI Film Classics series) (London: BFI Publishing) (87 pages).
- February 2002: Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children (London: Faber and Faber); British paperback edition (2003); American hardback edition, St Martin’s Press (2003); paperback edition, Picador USA (2004); German edition, Magnus Verlag (2005); Korean edition, Jung Sim (2003); Latin American edition, Editorial Oceano (2004). (284 pages)
Selected edited books
- April 2022: Origins of Science Fiction: From Mary Shelley to W. E. B. Du Bois (Oxford University Press) (A paperback edition is due out in 2024.)
- March 2015: Victorian Fairy Tales (Oxford University Press)
- February 2010: The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories: From Elizabeth Gaskell to Ambrose Bierce (London: Penguin Classics)
- August 2007: Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent for Penguin Classics (London: Penguin Classics)
Selected scholarly articles
- Autumn 2023: ‘The Wartime City’, in The Idea of the City in British Literature (eds. Matthew Beaumont and Gregory Dart) (Cambridge University Press) (5000 words).
- January 2017: ‘The Atavistic Nightmare: Memory and Recapitulation in Jack London’s Ghost and Fantasy Stories’, in Oxford Handbook of Jack London (ed. Jay Williams) (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 239-258.
- Autumn 2013: ‘“Nihilists of Castlebar!” Exporting Russian Nihilism in the 1880s and the Case of Oscar Wilde’s Vera, or the Nihilists’, in Russia in Britain,1880-1940: From Melodrama to Modernism, eds. Rebecca Beasley and Philip Bullock (Oxford: Oxford University Press). (10,000 words)
- June 2010: An essay on ‘Lodging’ in film and literature for Restless Cities, eds. Matthew Beaumont and Gregory Dart) (London: Verso), pp. 173-190. (Other contributors include Rachel Bowlby, Geoff Dyer, Iain Sinclair, Marshall Berman and David Trotter.)
I have written essay reviews on film and literature for The Guardian, and on occasion for the London Review of Books. I also reviewed regularly for the Times Literary Supplement, and very occasionally for the Times Higher Education Supplement. I have also written an essay on assassination for the New Statesman and various interviews with figures from the arts for Arts International.
- Secretary for the Harting Scheme
- on the Examencommissie (ALAS) for Literary Studies (MA)
- Harting co-ordinator / study-abroad co-ordinator
- SAP for English Literature section