Professor Thomas Keymer

KeymerUniversity Professors 2015
Faculty of Arts & Science, Department of English
Research Interests:
Literary criticism, history, and theory


Professor Thomas Keymer was born in London and studied at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, under the direction of the poet J. H. Prynne. His PhD thesis on narrative innovation and reader response in the early English novel led to a Research Fellowship at Emmanuel College, Cambridge (1987-9), to which he later returned as Quatercentenary Visiting Fellow (1993). Before joining the University of Toronto in 2006 as the first Chancellor Jackman Professor of English, he taught at Royal Holloway, University of London (1989-95), and St Anne’s College, Oxford (1995-2005), where he retains an honorary position as Supernumerary Fellow. He has also held visiting appointments at the Universities of Oslo (1993) and Exeter (2005-6), and has given numerous named lectures and conference keynotes around the world.

In 2014, Professor Keymer became the first Canadian citizen since Margaret Atwood to deliver the prestigious Clarendon Lectures in English series at Oxford. Professor Keymer directs the University of Toronto’s internationally renowned program in Book History and Print Culture, based at Massey College, where he is a Senior Fellow; he is also a Senior Member of University College. His university service includes the UTP’s Manuscript Review Committee and, as Humanities representative, the Committee for Honorary Degrees and the Connaught Committee. He is a tirelessly committed teacher, and has mentored and influenced a generation of students now working in literature departments across North America and Europe.

His research has been funded by major awards from the British Academy, SSHRC and the Leverhulme Trust, and he is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow. His academic leadership was recognised in 2011 by his election as Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is a Fellow of the English Association (2001) and the Royal Historical Society (2013), in recognition of the multidisciplinary reach of his work.

Professor Keymer’s first monograph, Richardson’s Clarissa and the Eighteenth-Century Reader (Cambridge University Press, 1992), established him as a major voice in literary studies for its pioneering approach to narrative form via the recovery and analysis of early reading experiences. His second book, Sterne, the Moderns, and the Novel (Oxford University Press, 2002) is widely recognized as the definitive study of Sterne’s narrative practice. Professor Keymer’s standing among the world’s leading authorities on both these major authors has been consolidated by, among other appointments, his editorship of The Cambridge Companion to Laurence Sterne (2009) and his co-general editorship (with Peter Sabor, CRC at McGill) of the 25-volume Cambridge Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Samuel Richardson (2011-). Beyond these, he is known for his exceptional versatility in Restoration, eighteenth-century and Romantic-era literary studies, and in particular for his prolific output on narrative and the novel; print culture and history of the book; literature, politics and national identities; literature and law (especially censorship and libel); pre-Romantic poetry; Jane Austen; theories of intertextuality, influence and reception and the theory and practice of textual editing.

He has published more than 50 major articles and chapters in refereed journals and volumes, plus eleven editions of primary texts, including the now standard teaching editions of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Fielding’s Tom Jones, Johnson’s Rasselas, and Beckford’s Vathek. He is currently completing Poetics of the Pillory: Literature and Seditious Libel 1660-1830, and, as editor, Volume I of The Oxford History of the Novel in English. He is also preparing an edition of the first Canadian novel, Frances Brooke’s Emily Montague (1769).

Professor Keymer is a longstanding contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books, and in 2009 he became the first scholar outside Oxford to be appointed General Editor of the flagship OUP journal Review of English Studies. Since 2012, Professor Keymer has combined this influential role with founding co-editorship, for OUP New York, of the rapidly expanding Literature section of Oxford Handbooks Online.