Robert Clark

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 a European Society for the Study of English with the support of his colleagues in the nascent Council of University English in the UK. He served as its Secretary until 1995, founding the European Journal for English Studies and The European English Messenger along the way. ESSE now has over 8000 members and organises valuable bi-ennial conferences which do much to provide trans-European perspectives in English Studies.

In 1989 he also began to be interested in information technology and since then has developed numerous database systems and provided consultancy to major publishers about digital implementaions. The Literary Encyclopedia is therefore at the junction of these two impulses of the late 20thC: international integration and the digital turn. His first publication in this new medium was The Annotated Bibliography for English Studies 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 by Routledge until 2012. He served as its Editorial Director until 2003.

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 and 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). He is currently completing work on Austen’s Geographies, a collection of essays by various hands, and a critical monograph entitled 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. An essay on a slightly different tack will be published in Persuasions Online in December 2015: “Wilderness and Shrubbery in Austen’s Works”, and another synoptic piece appeared as “Is this the real Mansfield Park?” Country Life, September 2nd 2015, 51-55.

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 is also developing our companion site Mapping Writing and writing and lecturing internationally about Jane Austen and her times. 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. He lives in London and continues as a Senior Fellow at UEA.