Professor Emeritus Ben Knights

A graduate of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, Ben Knights taught at the Universities of Cambridge and Durham, before joining the staff at Teesside, where he was appointed leader of the English and Cultural Studies Subject Group in 1995. From 2003 – 2011 he was seconded to direct the national (HE Academy) English Subject Centre, based at Royal Holloway, University of London. A National Teaching Fellow since 2001, he has recently been appointed a Visiting Professor at the Institute of Education, University of London.

Research interests

As a postgraduate, Ben Knights migrated from History to English through nineteenth-century studies and under the guidance of Raymond Williams. He has remained enthralled by the complex trade of insight and misunderstanding between the disciplines. And even retains some memory of having once been a Victorian specialist. There have been several consistent and interwoven threads in his work. Primarily:

  • Masculinities in narrative representations. The performance of gender through textual and pedagogic relations. In 2011 his edited volume Masculinities in Text and Teaching was the subject of a forum in Arts and Humanities in Higher Education (see below) edited by Michael Coventry. A discussion can be found on the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Project website
  • Readers and makers. What readers do with texts, and texts do with readers. Studies in group work and reader reception theory led on to the NTF Active Reading project, carried out at Teesside jointly with Chris Thurgar-Dawson, and which was explored through the experimental series of modules then called 'Writing for Reading'. This connects to an ongoing interest in Creative critical crossovers – imaginative writing as a form of literary and cultural criticism, and criticism as itself a form of imaginative practice.
  • All these interests feed into a pre-occupation with the history and practices of English and Cultural Studies, above all the dialogues between pedagogy and scholarship. He is interested not just in what subjects and disciplines know but in what they do, and what they expect their students to be and do. This orientation informed and was in turn enriched by the work of the English Subject Centre . A working theory of discipline-based pedagogic research is outlined on the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme website .


Editor of the Palgrave book series Teaching the New English (sixteen volumes published to date).

He has edited two journal special issues. With Nicole King, an Anglo-American Pedagogy issue of Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture (7.3: 2007). And with Richard Steadman-Jones a pedagogic issue of Language and Literature (20.3: 2011) on 'Stylistic Analysis and Pedagogic Research'.

He has recently been appointed a member of the editorial board of Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, and until 2011 belonged to the editorial board of the journal of Teaching in Higher Education. He guest edited two issues of the HE Academy journal Exchange on the professional development of academic staff.



  • Pedagogic Criticism: Reconfiguring University English Studies (Palgrave – forthcoming, due 2014)
  • (edited) Teaching Literature: Text and Dialogue in the English Classroom (Palgrave – forthcoming, due 2014)
  • (editor) Masculinities in Text and Teaching. Basingstoke: Palgrave. 2007.
  • (with Chris Thurgar-Dawson) Active Reading: Transformative Writing in Literary Studies. London. Continuum. 2006.
  • Writing Masculinities: Male Narratives in Twentieth-Century Fiction. Basingstoke: Macmillan. 1999.
  • The Listening Reader: Fiction and Poetry for Counsellors and Psychotherapists. London: Jessica Kingsley. 1995.
  • From Reader to Reader: Theory, Text, and Practice in the Study Group. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf. 1992.
  • The Idea of the Clerisy in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1978.

Contributions to books and collections

  • 'The Politics of Enhancement' in (eds.) Deborah Philips and Katie Shaw. The Politics of Literature and the Literature of Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave. In press.
  • 'DUET in its Times' and 'Teaching and Writing as Complementary Dialogic Processes' in (eds.) Malgorzata Grzegorzewska and Aniela Korzeniowska DUET Encounters. Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw. Warszawa 2008.
  • 'In Search of England' in (eds.) Stephan Kohl and Robert Burden, Landscape and Englishness. Amsterdam: Rodopi. 2006.
  • 'Reading as a Man: Women and the Rise of English Studies in England' in (eds.) Miriam Kauko, Sylvia Mieszkowski, and Alexandra Tischel, Gendered Academia: Wissenschaft und Geschlechterdifferenz. Gottingen: Wallstein Verlag. 2005.
  • Entries on 'The Hero' and on Baden Powell in (eds.) Michael Kimmel and Amy Aronson. The International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities (ABC-Clio 2003).
  • Chapter in (ed.) Nicholas Halmi and others, Coleridge's Poetry and Prose (Norton Critical Edition). W.W. Norton. 2004.
  • 'The Text and the Group', chapter in (ed.) Colin Evans, Developing University English Teaching. Edwin Mellen Press. 1995.
  • 'Creative Reading', chapter in (ed.) Peter Preston, The Teaching of Literature in Adult Education. Nottingham University Department of Adult Education 1995.


  • 'Masculinities in Dialogue: A Response'. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education. 10.1. 2011.
  • 'The Implied Aesthetic of English Teaching' WordPlay: the English Subject Centre Newsletter, April 2010.
  • 'Leitch, Skills, and Prosperity for All' . English Subject Centre Newsletter October 2008.
  • 'View from the English Subject Centre', Cambridge Quarterly. 34.3. 2005.
  • 'Intelligence and Interrogation: The Identity of the English Student'. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education. 4.1. 2005.
  • 'Men from the Boys: Writing on the Male Body' , Literature and History. 13.1. 2004.
  • 'English and the Audit Culture: From Sensibility to Competence' , English Subject Centre Newsletter January 2002.
  • 'English on the Boundaries' , English Subject Centre Newsletter February 2001.
  • 'Group Processes in Higher Education: the Uses of Theory'. Studies in Higher Education. 20. 2. 1995.
  • ' Hearing Yourself Teach: Group Processes for Adult Educators'. Studies in the Education of Adults. 25.2. 1993.
  • 'Writing Relations in a Men's Prison'. Free Associations. 2.21. 1991.
  • Reviews in Gothic Studies, Modern Language Review, Men and Masculinities, Culturemachine

Selected conference papers and workshops

  • 'Imaginary Burglars: English Studies and the Hinterlands of Thought' (De Montfort University 2012).
  • 'English on the Borders' (Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw 2012).
  • 'Loosening the Screw of Criticism' (The Good of Criticism Conference, University of Reading 2010).
  • 'The Hero as Reader' (London Institute of Education 2009).
  • 'Pilgrims and Progression' (Spatial Practices, University of Paderborn 2008).