photo of Tom F. Wright

Dr Tom F. Wright

Post:Senior Lecturer in English (English, American Studies)
Other posts:Director of Admissions and Recruitment (English)
Location:ARTS B B340

Telephone numbers
UK:01273 872649
International:+44 1273 872649

Research expertise:
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I am a cultural historian of nineteenth-century America and Britain. My research focuses on rhetoric and public speaking, and their role in shaping ideas about national and civic identities, media history, and the development of modern academic disciplines. 

I have published two books exploring cultures of popular oratory. Lecturing the Atlantic: Speech, Print and an Anglo-American Commons 1830-70  (Oxford University Press, 2017) focuses on the nineteenth century lecture circuit as a dynamic medium of transatlantic culture. The Cosmopolitan Lyceum: Lecture Culture and the Globe in Nineteenth-Century America (University of Massachusetts Press, 2013) is an edited collection of essays approaching lecture culture from multiple disciplinary perspectives. I have also published essays on Thomas Carlyle, Bayard Taylor, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, the painter Richard Caton Woodville, and on the teaching of oratory. You can read the full range of my research here.  

In 2019/20 I have two books forthcoming: i) Transatlantic Rhetoric: Speeches from American Independence to the Suffragettes, a critical anthology of key speeches intended for classroom use (forthcoming, Edinburgh University Press). ii) A volume on Orality for the New Critical Idiom textbook series, surveying the history of spoken word as literature. (under contract for Routledge) 

In 2019 I convened the British Association for American Studies's annual conference, bringing over 250 scholars from around the world to Sussex in the largest research event in the field. 

Current Projects 

- 'Primitive Charisma': a book tracing the development of a conceptual language for mass audience psychology in nineteenth century political theory, fiction, science writing and 'primitive' ethnography.  

- 'Speaking Citizens': a collaborative interdisciplinary project working with Classicists, Political Theorists and Historians to interrogate the political history of speech education in Britain from the advent of compulsory education (c.1850) to the present



I completed my PhD at Cambridge, and undertook further graduate work at Harvard as recipient of a Kennedy Scholarship. My teaching career began with lectureships at Oxford and UEA and a postdoctoral fellowship at Edinburgh, before coming to Sussex in 2012. In the US, I have been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for study in Chicago and been a research fellow at the Boston Athenaeum. I am a co-founder of the British Association for Nineteenth-Century Americanists (BrANCA), serve on the executive committee of the British Association for American Studies and am an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society