Academic

Background

I am currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing in the School of English at the University of Leicester. My University of Leicester webpage is here. I teach Creative Writing and English at all levels, B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. I am co-founder and director of the M.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester.

I obtained my B.A. and M.A. in English from Warwick University (in 1995 and 1997 respectively) in the U.K., and my Ph.D in English at Loughborough University, where I was Lecturer in English, specialising in nineteenth-century literature and Creative Writing, until 2007. At Loughborough University, I was co-founder and director of the M.A. and Ph.D programmes in Creative Writing. From 2007 to March 2014, I was Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University, where I helped to set up and taught on the B.A. joint honours programme in Creative Writing, as well as the M.A. by Independent Study in Creative Writing and Ph.D in Creative Writing.

In addition to various essays and reviews in journals and anthologies, I am author of three academic monographs: Mastery and Slavery in Victorian Writing (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003), and Science and Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Literature (Sussex Academic Press, hardback 2007, paperback edition 2014). My third monograph, Laughter, Literature, Violence, 1840-1930, is published by Palgrave-Macmillan in 2019. You can see more details about this book below. 

With Dr. Andrew Dix, I am co-editor of Figures of Heresy: Radical Theology in English and American Writing, 1800-2000 (Sussex Academic Press, 2005).

As well as various articles in journals such as Poe StudiesInterdisciplinary Science Reviews, Clio and Dickens Studies Annual, my essays feature in academic books including Edgar Allan Poe in Context, ed. Kevin Hayes (Cambridge University Press, 2012), and The Idea of Music in Victorian Fiction (Ashgate, 2004).

I have given conference papers, addresses and workshops at conferences across the U.K. and in the U.S.

Laughter, Literature, Violence, 1840-1930

Published by Palgrave-Macmillan, March 2019.

Laughter, Literature, Violence, 1840-1930 investigates the strange, complex, even paradoxical relationship between laughter, on the one hand, and violence, war, horror, death, on the other. It does so in relation to philosophy, politics, and key nineteenth- and twentieth-century literary texts, by Edgar Allan Poe, Edmund Gosse, Wyndham Lewis and Katherine Mansfield – texts which explore the far reaches of Schadenfreude, and so-called “superiority” theories of laughter, pushing these theories to breaking point. In these literary texts, the violent superiority often ascribed to laughter is seen as radically unstable, co-existing with its opposite: an anarchic sense of equality. Laughter, humour and comedy are slippery, duplicitous, ambivalent, self-contradictory hybrids, fusing apparently discordant elements. Now and then, though, literary and philosophical texts also dream of a different kind of laughter, one which reaches beyond its alloys – a transcendent, “perfect” laughter which exists only in and for itself. 

“It’s all here, everything, everything that has ever made someone laugh: Charlie Chaplin, Monty Python, sex, gas, dreams, ourang-outangs, the English, machines, mud, God, death, war, philosophy. In short: this is all but the last word on laughter – all but the last laugh, someone might say” (Prof. John Schad). 

“A provocative study of comic effects that are central to the reader’s response yet overlooked by literary critics. Taylor’s writing is both scholarly and entertaining, as he anatomises the links between laughter, cruelty and violence. His insights into the relationship between the hybridity of laughter and the generic hybridity of short story and memoir will be invaluable to scholars of both of these forms” (Prof. Ailsa Cox). 

Laughter, Literature, Violence, 1840-1930 treats the relationship between laughter and violence, and between conflicting emotions and incongruous feelings. This scholarly, captivating study reflects upon the ‘hybrid’ nature of humour by using works penned by American and British writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Edmund Gosse, Wyndham Lewis and Katherine Mansfield. Deftly moving between philosophy and literature, Jonathan Taylor tackles the ambivalent implications of comedy against the grain of standard approaches to the idea of ‘amusement'” (Saverio Tomaiuolo). 

“A court jester takes revenge on a king and his ministers, inducing them to dress in tar-covered suits before hoisting them to the ceiling and setting them on fire. A woman who has believed herself to be triumphantly starring in a great play hears her co-star giggling conspiratorially with his much younger girlfriend at her performance and her clothes. Soldiers in the trenches laugh uncontrollably, shell-shocked out of their senses. Such nasty moments abound in Jonathan Taylor’s … book. It sets out to think … about … what Taylor describes as ‘allegories of laughter’: descriptions of people laughing in books, and selfconscious literary reflections on the significance of such laughter. He reads these examples in terms of key theories of laughter … [and also] shows that existing theories of laughter often collapse when traced through the tortuous unfoldings of the literary scenes” (Kirsty Martin, in The Times Literary Supplement).

You can read a short blog article about the book here

Some reviews of previous academic writing:

Science and Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Literature:

“… fresh and incisive study … makes a major contribution to our understanding of the complexities of nineteenth-century culture” (Prof. Clare Hanson).

“… It seems to me a very interesting, highly intelligent, original, wide-ranging and thought-provoking monograph …. The standard of research and presentation is impeccable” (Prof. Adam Roberts).

“This book is a magnificent and scholarly addition to the current debates concerning the relationship between science and the arts” (Dr. Sharon Ruston).

“… intriguing and innovative” (Yearbook of English Studies).

“Taylor challenges the conventional view that science evolved steadily from the determinism of the 19th century to the uncertainty and chaos of the 20th. He shows how some of the most now-lampooned scientists of the Victorian era in fact admitted that the human mind highly influenced the understanding of the universe, and how artists widely portrayed science as malleable to desire and prejudice” (Reference & Research Book News).

In Science and Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Jonathan Taylor demonstrates the ways in which various Romantic and Victorian writers absorbed and complicated the ideas of scientific omniscience. In particular, Taylor shows how Pierre-Simon Laplace’s and Isaac Newton’s sense of the universe allowed these writers to reimagine themselves and reshape their writing. He also sees a continuity between these ideas and modern scientific thought, especially the branch dealing with Chaos Theory” (Studies in English Literature).

Figures of Heresy:

“… a serious and innovative contriution to contemporary debates about theology and literature” (Prof. David Jasper).

“A spirited and variegated set of essays” (Prof. Geoffrey Hartmann).