I retired from the University in 2014, and am now Emeritus Professor of English Literature and Honorary Senior Research Fellow.
I came to Liverpool in 2004 from the University of Birmingham, where I had been Professor of English Literature and Head of Department, to take up the newly-created Kenneth Allott Chair of English Literature in the School of English. I was Head of English from 2007 to 2010, and Head of the School of the Arts from 2013 to 2014.
Over the course of my career I have published widely on the history and theory of editing, commentary, and interpretation; on book history; on literary applications of Information Technology, especially in editing; on the development of English as a discipline and profession in the University; on the history of hermeneutics; on the theory and practice of literary interpretation and editing in the eighteenth century; and on poetry and language. I have written significant studies of a number of eighteenth-century authors (Swift, Smart, Sterne, Johnson, Malone, and others). I have produced authoritative full scholarly editions of major works by Christopher Smart, and, most recently, Jonathan Swift. My work is firmly based in the discipline of English literature, but has been significantly multi-disciplinary in scope, involving history, church history, theology, philosophy, bibliography, and English language. Since my retirement I have continued to work and publish in these areas. My most recent work has been on Laurence Sterne, and particularly his attitude to human knowledge; on Samuel Johnson's mimetic theory, particularly in the explanatory notes in his 1765 edition of Shakespeare; and on the late eighteenth-century editor Edmond Malone, and his theory and practice of literary authenticity. I am persuaded, and have argued at length in published work over the last thirty years, that 'literary' texts, like other responsibly authored texts, contain determinate meanings, which are capable of explication and understanding by responsible and informed readers.