photo of Tom Wright

Dr Tom Wright

Post:Senior Lecturer in English (English, American Studies)
Location:ARTS B B340

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

Research expertise:
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I am a specialist in American and British literature and culture of the long nineteenth century. My research interests include the history of rhetoric, oratory and performance; communication and media studies; and non-fiction aesthetics. I welcome hearing from any prospective MA or PhD students hoping to work on any of this stuff. 


I have written and edited two books on the cultural history of public speaking and performance. The first, Lecturing the Atlantic: Speech, Print and an Anglo-American Commons 1830-70  (Oxford University Press, 2017) reclaimed the public lecture as a key performance medium of transatlantic nineteenth-century culture, focusing on tours by British, Irish and American reformers and writers such as Frederick Douglass, Lola Montez, Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Makepeace Thackeray. The second, The Cosmopolitan Lyceum: Lecture Culture and the Globe in Nineteenth-Century America (University of Massachusetts Press, 2013) is a collection of essays on popular lecturing of the era bringing together innovative work from scholars across multiple disciplines. 

In 2018-19 I have two further books forthcoming. Transatlantic Rhetoric: A Speechmaking Anthology 1776-1914 (forthcoming, Edinburgh University Press) will collect a diverse range of historic British, American, Haitian and Irish speeches, alongside a series of critical essays. I will also be publishing the volume on Orality for the Routledge Critical Idiom series, surveying the history of spoken word as literature.  

In addition, I have published essays on Thomas Carlyle, Bayard Taylor, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, the painter Richard Caton Woodville, and about the teaching of oratory. You can read the full range of my research here.  

 Current Projects 

- 'The Birth of Charisma': a project tracing the emergence of the idea of charisma in the nineteenth century as a concept in science writings, political theory, fiction, religious thought and performance theory.   

- 'Speaking Citizens': a collaborative interdisciplinary project bringing together educational psychologists, historians and classicists to explore the history of oracy, citizenship and the idea of speech phobia, with participants from Queen Mary, University of London, Cambridge and Oxford.  


In 2017 I was awarded a University-wide Teaching Excellence Prize for 'Outstanding and Innovative Undergraduate Teaching'

In the spring of 2017 I taught modules on 'Transatlantic Rhetoric' and 'American Literature to 1890 Part II' 


I was educated at UCL and won a Kennedy Scholarship for graduate study in US History at Harvard before completing my PhD in English at Cambridge. Before joining Sussex in 2012, I held lectureships at Oxford and UEA, and a postdoctoral fellowship at Edinburgh. In the US, I have held a research fellowship at the Boston Athenaeum, and a Fulbright Fellowship in Northwestern University in Chicago. I am a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplementand a co-founder of the British Association for Nineteenth-Century Americanists, which organises regular research activities, reading groups, and a biennial conference. The very bored can read my CV here