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Jonathan Sachs, PhD

Professor, English

Jonathan Sachs, PhD
Office: S-LB 674-5 
J.W. McConnell Building,
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 2365
Website(s): View my Bookshelf page

On leave for the 2017-18 academic year as a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ

Jonathan Sachs specializes in British literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with a particular focus on the uses of antiquity in forging literary and political modernity in Britain during this time. He has a PhD in English Literature from the University of Chicago and BA and MA degrees from the University of Cambridge.

Sachs is the author of Romantic Antiquity: Rome in the British Imagination, 1789-1832 (
Oxford University Press, 2010). With the aid of a year-long fellowship from the National Humanities Center (US) and a Standard Research Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, he recently finished a new monograph, The Poetics of Decline in British Romanticism, which will be published in 2018 by Cambridge University Press ( This book suggests that nxieties about decline were a prominent feature of British public discourse in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. These anxieties were borne out repeatedly in books and periodicals, pamphlets and poems. Tracing the reciprocal development of Romantic-era Britain's rapidly expanding literary and market cultures through the lens of decline, Jonathan Sachs offers a fresh way of understanding British Romanticism. The book focuses on three aspects of literary experience - questions of value, the fascination with ruins, and the representation of slow time - to explore how shifting conceptions of progress and change inform a post-enlightenment sense of cultural decline. Combining close readings of Romantic literary texts with an examination of works from political economy, historical writing, classical studies, and media history the book reveals for the first time how anxieties about decline impacted literary form and shaped Romantic debates about poetry and the meaning of literature.

Sachs also maintains an active interest in print culture and media history. He is the Principal Investigator of the Interacting with Print Research Group:

In 2011 Sachs held Visiting Fellowships at Clare Hall, Cambridge and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. In March 2010, Sachs was the Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor at the University of Bristol. 

Recently, Professor Sachs has been invited to present aspects of his current research at a number of venues including the CUNY Graduate Center, the University of California at Berkeley, the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of York (UK), Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of Bristol, and the University of Glasgow.  In addition to the SSHRC and the National Humanities Center, Professor Sachs’s research has received support from the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art in London, the Huntington Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Fonds québécois de la recherché sur la société et la culture, the Keats-Shelley Association of America, and the Special Collections of the University of Chicago Library.

Research and teaching interests

British Romantic period
Relationship between literary and political discourse
Reception of Classical Antiquity

Selected publications


The Poetics of Decline in British Romanticism
(Cambridge University Press, in production).

Interacting with Print: Elements of Reading in the Era of Print Saturation,
co-written with the Multigraph Collective (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2017).

Romantic Antiquity: Rome in the British Imagination, 1789-1832
 (Oxford University Press, 2010).  


"Future!: Decline," part of a special issue on "No Future, edited by Alistair Renfrew, Poetics Today 37.3 (2016): 355-368). 

"The Ends of Empire: Romantic Interpretations of Greek Decline," for a special issue on "The Legacy of Greek Political Thought," Classical Receptions Journal 8.1 (2016): 32-53. 

"Scales of  Time and the Anticipation of the Future: Gibbon, Smith, Playfair" for a forum on historical distance in Modern Intellectual History, 11.3 (2014): 695-716.

"Poetical Geography: The Place of the Antiquarian and the Situatedness of Literature," Romantic Circles Praxis Series (2014) on "Romantic Antiquarianism, edited by Noah Heringman.

“The Time of Decline,” European Romantic Review 22: 3 (June 2011): 305-312.

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