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I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. After graduating “Outstanding Senior of the Year” from UCLA, I received a Marshall Scholarship to study at Oxford University, where I wrote my doctoral thesis on the mysterious eighteenth-century traveller and philosopher John "Walking" Stewart (1747-1822).


I have written widely on the poetry of the British Romantics (especially William Wordsworth and John Keats) and am co-founder of European Romantic Review - a scholarly peer-review journal devoted to the interdisciplinary study of nineteenth-century art and literature. 

My writing on culture frequently appears in such publications as BBC Culture online, The Guardian newspaper, The Independent newspaper, The Observer, The Sunday TimesWIRED, and The Times Literary Supplement, to which I am a regular contributor. In addition to delivering lectures at universities, museums, and literary festivals, I am often a guest on the BBC in the UK and, in Ireland, on RTE Radio's culture programme, Arena.


In 2014, I curated a unique exhibition at Oxford University, featuring a selection of works by the renowned contemporary artist Sean Scully alongside Medieval and Renaissance masterpieces, including paintings by Annibale Carracci, Jacopo Bassano, and Tintoretto. The show was described by critics as "curatorship of the first order” (Oxford Times). In 2015, I curated an exhibition of Scully’s work for Château La Coste, in the south of France.

I have served as a judge for the Royal Academy of Arts’ prestigious Charles Wollaston Award and been selected by Artlyst for its annual POWER 100 list of individuals internationally "who have made a major contribution to the discipline of Contemporary Art".

My popular history, The Gaol: The Story of Newgate, London's Most Notorious Prison, was BBC Radio 4's "Book of the Week" and was serialized on air over five days. The abridgement was selected by both Radio Times and the BBC as "Pick of the Week".


I am the author of three collections of poetry with Carcanet Press and my poems frequently appear in literary magazines in the UK and abroad.

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