Peter Walmsley, PhD


Professor of English
Location: Chester New Hall, Room 314
Phone: 905 525 9140 ext. 23728

  • Research
  • Profile
  • Publications
Restoration and 18th-century British writing, women's writing

Peter Walmsley has investigated British and colonial literatures from 1660 to1830 in his teaching. His research has particularly attended to philosophical and scientific discourses in the first half of this period. His first book, The Rhetoric of Berkeley's Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 1990), shows how Bishop Berkeley's affective and pragmatic linguistics is at work in the design of his major philosophical texts. Over the following decade, with the help of grants from both SSHRCC and the Hannah Foundation, Peter Walmsley worked closely with the Lovelace collection of John Locke's journals and notebooks in Oxford, research that has led ultimately to Locke's Essay and the Rhetoric of Science (Bucknell University Press, 2003). This book shows how, in his enormously influential Essay concerning Human Understanding (1689), Locke embraces the new rhetoric of seventeenth-century natural philosophy, adopting the strategies of his scientific contemporaries to create a highly original natural history of the human mind. At the same time, Peter Walmsley has closely followed recent critical developments in the study of Enlightenment British literature, and issues of gender and of empire inform both his undergraduate and graduate teaching. Current graduate courses include Women Writers of the Eighteenth Century, Discourses of Empire 1700-1820, and The Invention of Britain. He has supervised extensively at the graduate level, his MA and PhD students exploring topics from scandal fiction to Mary Wollstonecraft's Scandinavian Letters, and several have gone on to SSHRCC post-doctoral fellowships and tenure-track jobs at research-intensive Canadian universities. In 2002 he won McMaster's President's Award for Graduate Supervision. Peter Walmsley's current scholarship focusses on changing discourses of death in literature of the period, and he has completed articles on Joseph Addison's graveyard writing and on the cadaver in Ann Radcliffe's Gothic fiction.