Robert Clark was Reader in English at the University of East Anglia until his retirement from teaching in 2012. He was brought up in England, Ireland and Germany and received his intellectual formation at Dulwich College. He broke off studying medicine in May 1968 and for several years worked as Assistant Director of the Great Georges experimental community arts centre in Liverpool, directing "happenings" by Robert Rauschenberg and organising poetry readings by Adrian Henri and Roger McGough. He also worked as a free-lance photographer, made two documentary films, and learned the arts of bricklaying whilst rebuilding furnaces in Britain's car factories. This was, after all, the late 1960s when "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive"! After these wanderjahren he studied European and American Literature at the University of Essex where he was inspired by the sociology of literature and Goethe's concept of weltliteratur. He went from there to the University of East Anglia where he taught English, American and French literature, history and social thought from the 1680s to the present.
In 1989, in response to the "Bruges speech" in which Mrs Thatcher spoke about an England that was not part of Europe, he decided to reaffirm Britain's European identity by founding the European Society for the Study of English (ESSE) with the support of his colleagues in the nascent Council of University English in the UK. He served as the Founding Secretary of ESSE until 1996, founding the European Journal for English Studies and The European English Messenger. ESSE now has over 8000 members and organizes valuable biennial conferences which do much to provide trans-European perspectives in English Studies.
In 1989 Robert also began to appreciate the potential of information technology and since then has developed several database systems and provided consultancy to major publishers about digital implementaions. His first scholarly publication in this new medium was The Annotated Bibliography for English Studies (ABES) for which he designed the systems, recruited the contributors, and edited the text of over 40,000 entries. ABES was judged by the MLA one of the ‘outstanding publications of 1999’ and was published at first by Swets and Zeitlinger, and then by Routledge until 2012. From 1996 he also worked with the Macmillan Press on a proposal to build The Literary Web, which Macmillan decided not to continue in 1998 because they could not at that point see as likely to be profitableconceived of The Literary Encyclopedia n 1998 when a
Robert Clark's publications on paper include History and Myth in American Fiction (1984); James Fenimore Cooper: New Critical Essays (1985); English Studies in Transition (1993), edited with Piero Boitani; the New Casebook on 'Sense and Sensibility' and 'Pride and Prejudice" (1994); and The Arnold Anthology of British and Irish Writing in English (1997), edited with Thomas Healy. He has also prepared editions of Austen, Fenimore Cooper and Defoe for Everyman Books, published essays on Fielding, Austen, Dickens, Henry James, Angela Carter and Michael Ondaatje, and edited a collection of essays on The Spectator for a special issue of Media History (14:3 December 2008). In 2016 Palgrave will publish Austen’s Geographies, a collection of essays by colleagues he has encouraged to address this title, and he will complete Jane Austen and the Transformation of Capital, which is an extensive study of how Austen's work is engaged with contemporary political events during the French wars, and notably conscious of the shift from customary to free-market capitalism. A chapter from this study was recently published as “Mansfield Park and the Moral Empire”, Persuasions 26 (2014), 136-150, and another synoptic piece appeared as “Is this the real Mansfield Park?” Country Life, September 2nd 2015, 51-55. An essay on a slightly different tack will be published in Persuasions Online on 16th December 2015: “Wilderness and Shrubbery in Austen’s Works”, which offers an short history of the wilderness garden and commentary on how Austen uses it in Mansfield Park
Robert Clark has wide interests in the history of literature and of ideas, especially political theory and psychoanalysis, and has contributed numerous essays to The Literary Encyclopedia. He lectures internationally about Jane Austen and her times and is also developing our companion site Mapping Writing. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1996 and a Foundation Fellow of the English Association in 2001. He served as Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the UK Humanities Hub (2000-2005) and has twice served on the Executive of the Council for College and University English in the UK.