The School of English, Media Studies and Art History was renamed the School of Communication and Arts from 1 January 2015, and a new School website established.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.

Dr Lisa O'Connell
Dr Lisa O'Connell

PhD (Brown University), MA (UMelb), BA (Hons)

Senior Lecturer in Literature

Phone: (+61) 7 336 53323

Research and Teaching Focus


  • My doctoral dissertation examined the extraordinary number of novels and plays that feature elopements to the Scottish border town of Gretna Green, arguing that Gretna’s place in Britain’s cultural geography as romance’s internal colonial destination allowed it to play a key role in the development of 18th-century fiction. 
  • My book, Proper Ceremony: The Political Origins of the English Marriage Plot, offers a new account of the conditions under which the marriage plot became the English novel’s preferred narrative form during the long 18th century. It argues that these conditions were fundamentally religious and political rather than simply social or literary. Drawing on recent developments in eighteenth-century historiography, and focusing on works by Richardson, Fielding, Goldsmith, and Austen, I make the case that the marriage plot develops out of tense constitutional relations between the Anglican church and the British state, as well as in response to ongoing public debates over the regulation of weddings. 
  • My next major project, on sentimentalism and secularization, will be undertaken as part of a collaborative project on 'Secularization and British Literature, 1600-1800', with Prof Simon During and Dr Alison Scott. The project uses and expands upon recent models of European secularization to develop a new account of British literary history in the 17th and 18th centuries. By focusing on writing that emerged from three particular movements—neostoicism, sentimentalism and evangelicalism—it shows that literature in the period did not conform to a narrative of triumphant secularization. Rather, literary writing knew no secular/religious divide at all. From this perspective, key literary genres—the essay, the novel and meditative poetry—acquire new contexts, purposes and meanings.

Areas of Specialisation

18th-Century British Literature: the novel (especially Richardson and Austen); sentimentalism; theories of enlightenment and secularisation; gothic fiction; magazine culture 1770-1820; church-state relations.

  • Gender Studies: 18th and early 19th-century women’s writing; history of sexuality; marriage fiction and law; courtesan memoirs.
  • Colonial and Post-colonial Studies: settler colonial writing (Australia & New Zealand); British travel writing 1700-1820; 18th-century popular ethnography; early global literatures.

Selected Publications


  • Proper Ceremony: The Political Origins of the English Marriage Plot (ms in progress).
  • Libertine Enlightenment: Sex, Liberty and Licence in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Peter Cryle and Lisa O’Connell. London: Palgrave, 2004.

Book Chapters

  • “Libertines, Rakes and Dandies: personae, styles and affects” The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature, Ed. Ellen McCallum and Mikko Tuhkanen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2014..
  • “Settler Colonialism, Utility, Romance: E. G. Wakefield’s Letter from Sydney.” In Burden or Benefit? Imperial Benevolence and its Legacies. Ed. Chris Tiffin and Helen Gilbert. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2008. 49-60.
  • “Gretna Green Novels.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. Ed. David Scott Kastan et al. Vol. 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. 477-81.
  • “Authorship and Libertine Celebrity: Harriette Wilson’s Regency Memoirs.” In Libertine Enlightenment: Sex, Liberty and Licence in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Peter Cryle and Lisa O’Connell. London: Palgrave, 2004: 161-181.
  • “Matrimonial Ceremonies Displayed: Popular Ethnography and Enlightened Imperialism.” In Exoticism and the Culture of Exploration. Ed. Robert Maccubbin and Christa Knellwolf, Durham: Duke University Press, 2003: 98-116.

Selected Articles:

  • “Sir Charles Grandison, Natural Law and the Fictionalised English Gentleman” Intellectual History Review, Special Issue: Discourses of Humanity in the Enlightenment, 23:3, 2013: 1-15.
  • “’By Ordinance of Nature’: Marriage, Religion and the Modern English State” Parergon, Special Issue: Reason of State, Natural Law and Early Modern Statecraft, 28: 2 (2011) 149-166.
  • “Vicars and Squires: Religion and the Rise of the English Marriage Plot” The Eighteenth-Century: Theory and Interpretation, Special Issue: The Drift of Fiction: Reconsidering the Eighteenth-Century Novel, 52: 3-4 (Fall/Winter 2011): 383-402.
  • “The Theo-Political Origins of the English Marriage Plot.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction, Special Issue: Theories of the Novel Now, 43.1 (Spring 2010): 31-37.
  • “Women's Writing, Language and Readership in The Lady's Magazine, 1770-1832.” Defining Gender, 1450-1910: Five Centuries of Advice Literature Online. Adam Matthew, 2004.
  • “Matrimonial Ceremonies Displayed: Popular Ethnography and Enlightened Imperialism.” Eighteenth-Century Life. 26.3 (2002): 98-116.
  • “Dislocating Literature: the Novel and the Gretna Green Romance.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction. 35.1 (Fall 2001): 5-23.
  • “Marriage Acts: Stages in the Transformation of Modern Nuptial Culture.” differences 11.1 (1999): 68-111.

Current Talks and Conferences

  • Roundtable “Writing Global Histories of Gay and Lesbian Literature: Problems and Possibilities,” convened by Ellen McCallum, co-editor of the forthcoming The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature, MLA convention, Vancouver BC, January 8-11, 2015.
  • Panel participant "How Secular was the English Literary Enlightenment?" Ideas and Enlightenment: the Long Eighteenth Century, David Smith Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Studies XV, The University of Sydney, 10-13 December 2014.
  • Panel participant "Histories of Melancholia." In association with the exhibition Five Centuries of Melancholia, UQ Art Museum. Chaired by Professor Peter Holbrook, participants include Dr Andrea Bubenik, Dr Rex Butler, and Dr Lisa O’Connell, Thursday 4 September 2.30pm-3.30pm, 2014.
  • “‘Scenes of Silence’: Fielding’s Articulations of Audibility” ARC Symposium on Sound and Noise in British Literature and Culture, 1700-1850, Griffith Center for Cultural Research, Queensland College of Art, South Bank, 17-18 July 2014.
  • “Was Sentimentalism Secular?” Division for Late-Eighteenth-Century English Literature, MLA Convention, Chicago, IL, January 9-12, 2014.
  • “Secular Virtue, Feeling and the Novel” Arts and Rhetorics of Emotion in Early Modern Europe: A Conference, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Europe 1100-1800, The University of Queensland, 25-27 November, 2013.
  • “World-Making: the Human and Literary Worlds.” Panel organiser and chair. Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association (AULLA) conference, University of Queensland, July 10-12, 2013.
  • “Terra Nullius: The Post-Revolutionary Novelization of the World” Society for Novel Studies first biennial conference, Duke University, April 27-28, 2012.
  • “Reason, Sympathy and Political Justice: William Godwin’s Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication” Department of English and American Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin, June 15th, 2012.
  • “Teaching Emancipation: Godwin’s Caleb Williams.” Invited participant. Panel on “English, Education and the Humanities” Ian Hunter and the Humanities in Australia: A Symposium, University of Queensland, 30-31 March, 2012.

Fellowships, Grants, Awards

  • Chief Investigator, with Prof Simon During (CHED) and Dr Alison Scott (EMSAH), ARC Discovery Grant Project: 'Secularization and British Literature, 1600-1800' (2013-15).
  • Associate Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence in the History of Emotions, Europe 1100-1800, 2011-17
  • Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (2003-06)
  • Research Fellowship, Humanities Research Centre, ANU, (2005)
  • Early Career Research Fellowship, University of Queensland (2002)
  • Doctoral Fellowship, Brown University (1993-97)
  • Percival Serle Prize for English Literature, University of Melbourne (1988)