Portrait of Dr  Merrick Burrow Dr Merrick Burrow

m.burrow@hud.ac.uk | 01484 472685


I grew up in Lancashire, before taking a first degree in English Studies at the University of Lancaster (1st class honours), followed by postgraduate study at the University of Sussex comprising an MA in Critical Theory and DPhil in English Literature for my thesis entitled ‘Bordering the Aesthetic: Oscar Wilde and the discourses of literary modernity’ under the supervision of Professor Geoffrey Bennington.

I joined the University of Huddersfield in 2003. I led the validation of a single honours degree in English Literature in 2004 and a taught MA in Literary Studies in 2008. I have been subject leader since 2005.

I previously taught English Literature at the University of Sussex, University of Chichester and the University of Winchester, and have been a member of the external validation panels for undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses at the University of Worcester and the University of Central Lancashire. I am currently external examiner for BA (Hons) English and BA (Hons) English with American Literature at the University of Winchester.

Research and Scholarship

I have organised international conferences on Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project in 2003 and on Masculine Identifications in July 2010. I am a member of the advisory board for the international journal Papers in Language and Literature and have peer reviewed for Blackwell, Palgrave, Mosaic and Victorian Review

My current research interests lie primarily in Victorian and Edwardian fiction, including both literary and popular genres, and my most recent research is particularly concerned with the ways in which culture is meditated by the relationships between human and nonhuman actors. My work-in-progress includes a journal article on the travel writing of Robert Louis Stevenson and a chapter on the history of detective fiction for the Cambridge Companion to Sherlock Holmes.

The major project I have underway at the moment is a monograph with the working title Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Exact Science of Deception, which uses Conan Doyle’s endorsement of the Cottingley Fairies photographs in 1920 as the starting point for an exploration of the interconnectedness of popular fiction, science and the paranormal in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The following is a draft abstract:

How did a set of photographs taken as a prank by two 'village kids' (to borrow Elsie Wright's description of herself and her cousin, Frances Griffiths, who took the pictures) become some of the most iconic images of the 20th century? And how in 1920 did the creator of the great detective Sherlock Holmes come to publicly endorse this practical joke as evidence of the existence of fairies? The Cottingley fairies episode seems on the surface to be a simple case of Conan Doyle seeing what he wanted to see, after his conversion to spiritualism in 1916 and the death of his son two years later. But this book traces the origins of the Cottingley fairies controversy back to the previous century and the emergence in the 1840s of the detective story, photography, mesmerism, modern conjuring and the spiritualist movement. These parallel developments formed the framework for debates that raged for the next 80 years between paranormal investigators and rationalist sceptics, culminating in Conan Doyle's publication of two articles in the Strand magazine in 1920 and a book two years later, The Coming of the Fairies. My own book aims to restore to the case of the Cottingley Fairies this deeper history in which there is not one deception but many, in which scientific luminaries as well as writers of fiction were seduced by frauds and hoaxes, in which public debate was polemical and fierce, and where what was at stake above all was popular opinion. In doing so, it becomes easier to understand how an educated and rational man such as Conan Doyle could be seduced into publicly endorsing such a sensational forgery, and how a fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, helped to propel the Cottingley fairy photographs from provincial obscurity to global recognition.

I am giving a series of public talks relating to this project, including an event at the Abbey House Museum in Kirkstall, Leeds in May 2017, as part of the ‘Fantasies and Fairytales’ exhibition, and a panel discussion about the Cottingley Fairies at Bradford Literature Festival in July 2017. I am also advising a research team based at Hitotsubashi University and Utsunomiya Fairy Museum in Japan, who are putting on an exhibition relating to the Cottingley Fairies in 2017.

Publications and Other Research Outputs


Burrow, M (2017) ‘Holmes and the History of Detective Fiction’. In: The Cambridge Companion to Sherlock Holmes. : Cambridge University Press. .


Merrick, B (2016) ‘‘The future of our delicate network of empire’: The Riddle of the Sands and the Birth of the British Spy Thriller’. In: New Directions in Popular Fiction: Genre, Distribution, Reproduction. London: Palgrave. pp. 111-133. ISBN 978-1-137-52346-4

Burrow, M (2016) ‘Healing Victorian MasculinitiesPapers on Language and Literature , 52 (2), pp. 198-206. ISSN 0031-1294


Burrow, M (2013) ‘The Filth and the Purity: Policing Dirt in Late-Victorian Detective FictionJournal of Victorian Culture , 18 (4), pp. 562-564. ISSN 1355-5502

Burrow, M (2013) ‘Queer Clubs and Queer Trades: G.K. Chesterton, Homosociality and the City’. In: G.K. Chesterton, London and Modernity. London: Bloomsbury. . ISBN 9781780937069

Burrow, M (2013) ‘Conan Doyle's gothic materialismNineteenth-Century Contexts , 35 (3), pp. 309-323. ISSN 0890-5495

Burrow, M (2013) ‘The Imperial Souvenir: Things and Masculinities in H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines and Allan QuatermainJournal of Victorian Culture , 18 (1), pp. 72-92. ISSN 1355-5502


Burrow, M (2012) ‘Oscar Wilde and the Plaistow Matricide: Competing Critiques of Influence in the Formation of Late-Victorian MasculinitiesCulture, Society and Masculinities , 4 (2), pp. 133-147. ISSN 1941-5583


Burrow, M (2004) ‘Dialectical Fairyland, Cosmic Advertising and the Mimetic Faculty in The Arcades ProjectNew formations (54), pp. 108-125. ISSN 0950-2378

Burrow, M., Farnell, G. and Jardine, M. (2004) ‘'Construction Site': On Reading Benjamin's ArcadesNew formations (54), pp. 7-12. ISSN 0950-2378

Research Degree Supervision


David Halliwell, ‘Nothing against good morals and correct taste’: Subversion, containment and the masculine boundaries of Victorian sensation fiction (awarded 2014)

Allegra Hartley, Women Writers of Scientific Romance in the Late 19th and Early 20th Century

MA by Research

Matilde Christensen, Power Exchange: ambivalence, escapism and the male masochist fantasy in Marsh and the Urban Gothic


I am particularly interested in supervising PhD research relating to late Victorian and early 20th century literature, particularly topics relating to gender, empire, science, technology and geographical space.