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Dr Leigh Wetherall Dickson

Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century English Literature and Programme Leader for the B.A. (Hons) English Language and Literature (sem 1)

Department: Humanities

Leigh is Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Literature with an unhealthy interest in fashion and fame, murder and madness, and celebrity and scandal.

ADSS Leighwetheralldickson Staffprofile 255My first degree was a BA in English Studies at Sheffield Hallam, followed by a PhD. In December 2006 I first joined Northumbria as the Leverhulme Research Associate for the three-year project 'Before Depression: Representation and Culture of the English Malady, 1660-1800', and have since become a full-time lecturer in Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century English Literature at Northumbria.

Campus Address

Office: Lipman 403

0191 227 3277


  • 1999 - 2006: PhD (part-time), Sheffield Hallam University, for the project 'Lady Caroline Lamb and the cultural construction of a reputation for madness'                               
  • 1996 - 1999: BA English Studies, Sheffield Hallam University, Grade 2:1

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

I am fascinated by ideas relating to fame, fashion and politics in the Romantic period, and how narratives of illness and suicide are intertwined with these broader themes. Whilst undertaking my PhD I worked for the Churches Conservation Trust in the capacity as property custodian and education officer for the North East region, and with whom I continue to be involved. This has led to a developing interest into the relationship between literature, thanatourism (grief tourism) memorialisation, which ties in with my interest in fame, ambition and legacy.

Teaching Interests

My teaching interests reflect my research themes and scholarly interests:

  • ‘Gothic Stories: 19th century to the present’ (1st year undergraduate core module)
  • ‘Working with our Cultural Heritage’ (2nd-year optional employability module);
  • ‘Romantic Politics: British Literary Responses to the French Revolution’ (3rd-year optional module)
  • ‘Dark Tourism’ (MA English Literature module)

Key Publications

Journal articles and book chapters

‘Syphilis and Sociability: The Impolite Bodies of James Boswell and Sylas Neville’, The Male Body in Medicine and Literature (Liverpool University Press, 2018).

‘Fashion Victim: High Society, Sociability and Suicide in Georgiana Cavendish’s The Sylph’, Disease and Death in the Eighteenth Century: Fashioning the Unfashionable (Palgrave, 2016).

‘“A written monologue by that most interesting being, myself”: Sickness, Sympathy and Self-Validation in Diary of Alice James’, Studies in Literary Imagination 48:1 (Spring, 2015) [actual publication date September 2016].

‘“What a Creature is Man!”: The Melancholy, Literary Ambition and Manly Fortitude of Robert Burns’, Order in Variety: Voice and Context in Eighteenth-Century Verse (Palgrave, 2015).

‘“The French, alas, are happy, while the English seek to be so”: Subverting the Melancholy Stereotype in Georgiana Cavendish’s The Sylph’, La Sociabilité en France et en Grande-Breatagne au Siècle des Lumières : L’emergence d’un nouveau modele de societe, Volume 2 (Paris: Editions Le Manuscrit, 2015).

‘A Written Warning: Lady Caroline Lamb’s Aristocracy and Appropriation of John Ford’, Shakespeare and Romanticism, ed. J.M. Oritz (Ashgate, 2013).

‘ “A Correspondence With You Has Roused Me From My Lethargy, and Made Me Conscious of Existence”: Letters as Substitute for the Depressed Self’, La Sociabilité en France et en Grande-Breatagne au Siècle des Lumières : L’emergence d’un nouveau modele de societe (Paris: Editions Le Manuscrit, 2012).

‘Melancholy, Medicine, Mad Moon and Marriage: Autobiographical Expressions of Depression’, in Melancholy Experience in Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century (Palgrave, 2011).

‘The Construction of a Reputation for Madness: the Case Study of Lady Caroline Lamb’, Working with English: Medieval and Modern Language, Literature and Drama 2 (2005-2006), December 2006.

‘Authority & Legitimacy – Representations of the Aristocracy in the Novels of Lady Caroline Lamb’, Women’s Writing, Vol. 13, no. 3 (October 2006), ed. M. Mulvey-Roberts, Bristol: University of the West of England, pp. 369-391.

Edited volumes

Co-editor with Allan Ingram, Disease and Death in the Eighteenth Century: Fashioning the Unfashionable (Palgrave, 2016).

Co-editor with Paul Douglass, The Works of Lady Caroline Lamb, 3 Volumes (Pickering & Chatto, 2009), Nominated for 2011 MLA Distinguished Scholarly Edition award

General editor, Depression and Melancholy 1660-1800, 4 volumes (Pickering & Chatto, 2012).

Editor: ‘Autobiography’, Volume 3, Depression and Melancholy 1660-1800 (Pickering & Chatto).

Co-editor: ‘Popular Culture’, Volume 4, Depression and Melancholy 1660-1800 (Pickering & Chatto).

Current/Recent Projects

Romanticism and Revolutionary Suicide (2015-2020) - In light of the current public debate over assisted suicide, the narrowness of contemporary modes of discourse surrounding suicide is increasingly problematic, since it hampers a rounded, historically-grounded understanding of the issue. This collaborative project between the University of Manitoba (lead institution) and Northumbria University on suicide in Romantic-era literary works broadens this important conversation, providing newly-recovered ways of thinking about suicide. We theorize that the challenges presented by our current conceptualization of suicide are the product of Romantic-era cultural forces. For much of the period, the meanings of suicide were multiple, subject to rigorous debate, and -- particularly in literary works -- often revolutionary. However, by the end of the era, suicide came to signify only mental illness and public engagement with the concept was discouraged.

Fashionable Diseases:Medicine, Literature and Culture, c. 1660-1832 (2013-2016) was a three-year, Leverhulme-funded research project was a collaborative project between Northumbria University and Newcastle University. With colleagues Professor Clark Lawlor and Professor Allan Ingram (Northumbria) and Dr Jonathan Andrews (Newcastle), the project interrogated the meaning of the word ‘fashionable’ when applied to disease, and particularly explored the ways in which the medicine, literature and culture of the eighteenth century define and represent often debilitating diseases as fashionable. My contribution was to examine the pursuit of fame as being a form of illness in itself, and the relationship between sociability and suicide.

Before Depression 1660–1800: The Representation and Culture of the English Malady (2006-2009) was a three-year, Leverhulme-funded project that brought together researchers from Northumbria and Sunderland Universities. With colleagues Dr Clark Lawlor and Professor Allan Ingram (Northumbria), and Professors Richard Terry and Stuart Sim (Sunderland), the term ‘Depression’ was interrogated. Depression, like other forms of mental illness, has been a much-discussed issue in modern societies. Yet depression as a psychiatric term dates only from the middle years of the nineteenth century, when it acquired its currency in both medical and literary usage. Before depression, a wide range of terms was employed to describe, with varying emphases, the mental and physical experience of lowness of spirits, terms that, overlapping and even synonymous though they seem, had cultural and scientific resonance within different social fields at different times. My particular contribution was to examine autobiographical accounts of the experience of mental dis-ease.

Funding Awards and Fellowships

  • 2018-2021: Leverhulme Trust-funded project, Writing Doctors: Representation and Medical Personality ca. 1660-1832 [co-investigator with Clark Lawlor, Allan Ingram, and Helen Williams].
  • 2014-present, Collaborator with Dr Michelle Faubert, Romanticism and Revolutionary Suicide, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, CA$145,697 (£78,000)
  • March 2015, Chawton House Research Fellowship
  • 2013–2016, Co-Director, Fashionable Diseases: Medicine, Literature and culture 1660-1800, Leverhulme Trust, £259,193 

Postgraduate Supervision

Principal supervisor:

  • Montana Davies-Shuck, Fashioning the Fop: Constructing a Genealogy from the Restoration to the Revolution  (submission 2019)
  • Sarah Ashley Winter, The Life and Death of a Genre: English Melodrama 1760-1870 (successfully completed May 2015)
  • Chris Machell, The Politics of Bestial Imagery in Satire, 1789 – 1820 (successfully completed 2011)


  • Ashleigh Blackwood, Managing Maternity: Reproduction and the Literary Imagination in the Eighteenth Century (successfully completed January 2018)
  • Charlotte Holden, "Against the Spleen": Treatment for Melancholy in the Novels of Henry Fielding and Laurence Sterne (successfully completed 2011)
  • Pauline Morris, Depression and Gender: The Expression and Experience of Melancholy in the Eighteenth Century (successfully completed 2011)
  • Diane Buie, Melancholy and the Idle Lifestyle in the Eighteenth Century (successfully completed 2010) 

Affiliations and Memberships

  • British Association for Romantic Studies
  • British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
  • The Byron Society
  • Byron Society of America
  • Member of North East Forum for Eighteenth-Century Studies


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