Prof Abigail Williams

Prof Abigail Williams

I have been a Fellow of St Peter's since 2001, beginning shortly after I finished my doctorate on politics and literature in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. My research is on eighteenth century literature, and at the moment I am working on a book called Wilful Misreading, a study of the ways in which texts are creatively misread in the eighteenth century - and the parallels with contemporary internet parody and digital culture. I have co-written an 'Eighteenth-century grime' song about this with the musician Jonny Berliner called 'Understanding Misunderstanding' which you can listen to here.

My most recent publication is The Social Life of Books: Reading Together in the Eighteenth-Century Home (Yale, 2017), which explores the rich history of domestic reading and all the ways books have been shared in the past. I enjoy, and have benefited from, the connections between my teaching and my research, and am keen to help my students to develop their fullest potential both while they are at St Peter's, and when they leave.


At St Peter's, I teach undergraduate courses in the period 1640-1832, and the Shakespeare paper. In the Faculty, I lecture on Restoration comedy, High and Low Culture, Pope, Swift, Montagu, Behn and Rochester, the history of reading, and on the connections between literature and material culture. I teach interdisciplinary courses on eighteenth-century literary and material culture with Dr Jim Harris and Dr Giovanna Vitelli, of the Ashmolean Museum, and I also co-teach a special option on material texts in the Bodleian Library with Professor Adam Smyth.


I am interested in many areas of eighteenth century literature and history, but my research has led to some areas of particular focus: the relationship between politics and literature; textual criticism; eighteenth-century poetic miscellanies and popular reception history; letters, obliteration and the revision of eighteenth-century texts; domestic reading and the history of the home; the history of reading. I am one of the convenors of the 'Eighteenth Century Literature and Culture' seminar, the Faculty's eighteenth-century graduate research seminar. I am really keen on developing new ways of communicating with wider audiences, and you can see to the left a series of links to public facing broadcasts and podcasts I have done..

Selected Publications (see Faculty page, linked on the left, for more details)

The Social Life of Books: Reading Together in the Eighteenth-Century Home (Yale, 2017)

Journal to Stella: Letters to Esther Johnson and Rebecca Dingley, 1710-1713. Jonathan Swift, edited by Abigail Williams (CUP, 2013).

Poetry and the Creation of a Whig Literary Culture: 1680-1714. Abigail Williams (OUP, 2005).