Professor Robert Appelbaum

Degree: B.A. University of Chicago, M.A. San Francisco State University, Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley.

Professor Appelbaum began his career as a specialist in the early modern period, concentrating as a ‘New Historicist’ on the relationship between literature and politics. His first book, Literature and Utopian Politics in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge 2002) drew upon political theory as well as literary studies in order to draw a new picture of the period, from Shakespeare to Dryden, based upon the history of its hope in the ‘Not Yet’. 

He then moved on to colonialism studies, doing postdoctoral work at the Folger Shakespeare Library, leading to a volume co-edited with historian John Wood Sweet, Envisioning an English Empire: Jamestown and the Making of the North Atlantic World (Pennsylvania 2005).


After colonialism and utopianism, Dr Appelbaum went on to develop work in two more fields, food studies and terrorism studies. His first major work in food studies was Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup and Other Gastronomic Studies: Literature, Culture and Food Among the Early Moderns (Chicago 2006). Winner of the 2007 Roland H. Bainton Prize, Aguecheek's Beef discusses the literature and culture of Italy, France and early colonial America as well as Britain, from cookery books to travelogues, and from prose fiction to stage plays.

More recently, Dr Appelbaum has completed a study moving forward into the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Dishing It Out: In Search of the Restaurant Experience (Reaktion 2011), is at once a critical study of writing about restaurants and a paean to cultural democracy as experienced through food, hospitality and artistry.

Turning to terrorism studies, Prof Appelbaum has recently published articles on the Gunpowder Plot poems of John Milton and the terrorist novels of the late twentieth century and he has recently completed a manuscript, Terrorism Before the Letter: Literatures of Political Violence in France, Scotland and England, 1559-1642.

In the autumn of 2012 Prof Appelbaum hosted an international conference, Terrorism and the Literary Imagination, and is currently guest-editing a special edition of the Journal for Cultural Research based on that conference to be entitled Fantasias of Terrorism.

In 2014 Professor Appelbaum published a work of creative non-fiction that studies modern consumerism and personal identity, Working the Aisles: A Life in Consumption, praised in Key Words for its ‘flawless sensitivity to the significance to be found in meticulous detail’ and its embrace of a Raymond Williams-like sense of culture as struggle.  Working the Aisles has been followed by essays on austerity, violence, terrorism, television . . . and Shakespeare. In late 2015 appears Terrorism Before the Letter: Mythography and Political Violence in England, Scotland, and France 1559 – 1642, from Oxford UP.

Professor Appelbaum has previously taught at the University of Cincinnati, the University of San Diego, and Lancaster University. He has been the recipient of fellowship support from many organisations, including the Mellon Foundation, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the United Kingdom. He is a member of the AHRC Peer Review College, the American Council of Learned Societies Review Board, and several research societies, and he co-edits Studia Neophilologica. His brief essays on politics, culture and education can be found in the on-line archives of Times Higher Education  and The Baffler. Currently working on a monograph entitled The Aesthetics of Violence: Art, Fiction, Drama and Film, Professor Appelbaum especially encourages applications from students wishing to pursue their Ph.D.’s in literature and violence, with a foundation (though not necessarily an exclusive focus) in the English literary tradition. Dissertation projects on canonical authors of the Renaissance and on food and literature are also welcome.