Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Dr Sophie Rudland


I completed my PhD in English Literature at Warwick University in 2013. My thesis looked at the work of radical poet William Blake, feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, and philosopher David Hartley. I studied for an MA at King's College London, where I specialized in English Literature from 1790-1930. Research interests include: Literature; Gender; Feminism; the History of Emotion; Romanticism; Theology; and Cultural Studies. I am now a Commissioning Editor @ibtauris publishing distinctive new work in Social Sciences.

Department: English and Comparative Literary Studies

Supervisor: Emma Mason

Year started: 2009

Thesis title: Faith, Feeling and Gender in the Work of Hartley, Wollstonecraft and Blake

Research description

This project focuses on the work of William Blake and Mary Wollstonecraft, radical writers, born two years apart, and who lived and worked in London. While not usually studied together, a comparison of Blake and Wollstonecraft allows us to capture a particular moment in history, when renewed interest in emotion, dissenting religion, and feminism, stimulated a resurgence of curiosity regarding Hartlean philosophy. David Hartley’s Observations on Man (1749) (a text made famous for its physicalized account of association) had subscribed to a necessitarian view of the world, which included a belief in the mechanical mind, and a denial of philosophical free-will, but all within a strongly Christian and egalitarian framework. On this view, human beings are the product of physical sensations on the body, and the state of the brain and nerves are all-important for mediating the type of experience received. This thesis shows how the passions (which Hartley subdivides into seven classes of ‘pleasures and pains’) are vital for Hartley’s philosophy, because they provide a means to worship and connect with God; reveal to the person his or her faith, morality and ethics; and equally important, provide a way for each person to develop to God’s perfection.

The thesis elucidates how Hartley’s scientized vision of emotion, and presentation of the body, are received by Blake and Wollstonecraft in order to support and promote their feminist ideas. As members of the Joseph Johnson Circle and friends to Johnson himself, Blake and Wollstonecraft were exposed to the debates and issues surrounding Observations on Man which Johnson had republished on numerous occasions from 1790 to 1801. The project places the radicalism of Blake and Wollstonecraft within the Hartlean Culture of the Johnson group, and reimagines the writers’ works in terms of their Christian, gendered, and emotional content. Popular well into the nineteenth century, Hartley’s text was influential in sustaining progressive ideas about religion, education and feminism, and was vital in the development of Unitarianism. The thesis demonstrates the importance of Hartlean philosophy in shaping the radical ideas of Blake and Wollstonecraft and places them within their particular religio-philosophic climate.


Warwick Work Experience Bursary for an editorial internshhip at Pickering & Chatto Publishers (July 2013)

Stephen Copley Postgraduate Research Award (British Association for Romantic Studies) July 2012

AHRC Collaborative Research Training programme ‘Theories and Methods: Literature, Science and Medicine’
4-8 January 2010 (St Deiniol’s Library, Museum of Science and Industry and John Rylands Library, Manchester)
25-27 March 2010 (Wellcome Library, Royal College of Surgeons, King's College London)


William Blake's Redemption of David Hartley's Hero for The Glass (Spring, 2012)

Book Reviews

Transgressive Theatricality, Romanticism, and Mary Wollstonecraft for The British Association of Romantic Studies (2013)

Milton's Messiah: The Son of God in the Works of John Milton for The Glass (2012)

Between Truth and Fiction: A Reader in Literature and Christian Theology for Modern Believing (2011)

John Clare’s Religion for Literature and Theology (2010)

Romantic Women Poets: Genre and Gender and British Women Poets and the Romantic Writing Community for Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net (2010)

 Conference Papers  

"Blake's Redemption of David Hartley's Hero" (The Christian Literary Studies Group, Corpus Christi College, Oxford; November 2011)

"Re-Christianizing Hartley" (English Postgraduate Symposium, Warwick; June 2011)

“Emotion and Feeling in Hartley's Observations on Man” (BSECS Emotions Conference, St Hugh's College, Oxford; January 2011)

“Challenging Coleridge's Idea of Hartley: Emotion and the Soul in Observations on Man” (Arts Faculty Seminar Series, Warwick; June 2010)

"Literature, Science, Medicine and David Hartley's Observations on Man” (AHRC Literature, Science and Medicine Programme; The Gladstone Library; January 2010)

Reading Groups

Poetry and Philosophy Reading Group (CRPLA, Warwick)
Feminist Reading Group (Queen Mary / Institute of English Studies)
Co-organizer of Warwick Theology Reading Group

Member of the British Association for Romantic Studies