Ruston, Sharon 1972–

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Ruston, Sharon 1972–


Born December 16, 1972. Education: University of Liverpool, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.


Office—Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer and educator. University of Wales, Bangor Gwynedd, lecturer of English literature; Keele University, Staffordshire, England, senior lecturer of English, director of the media, communications, and culture program.


British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS; treasurer and membership secretary, beginning 1999, became vice president).


The Influence and Anxiety of the British Romantics: Spectres of Romanticism, Edwin Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 1999.

Shelley and Vitality, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2005.

Romanticism, Continuum (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor of essays and articles to periodicals, including Chadwyck Healey Literature Online, Romanticism, British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and Keats-Shelley Journal.


Sharon Ruston is a writer and educator who attended the University of Liverpool, in England, where she received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. Ruston has taught English literature at the University of Wales, in Bangor, and at Keele University, in Staffordshire, England. Her primary research interests are the relationship between romantic literatures, especially the works of English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the possible influence of more modern scientific dialogues on the romantic genre. She has also conducted academic inquiry into Mary Wollstonecraft's adaptations of scientific concepts into her creative efforts and the possible junction between William Godwin's work and the popular nineteenth-century practice of mesmerism, a system of healing founded by Franz Anton Mesmer. In addition to her service as an English language educator, Ruston has contributed essays and articles to several publications, including Romanticism, the British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and the Keats-Shelley Journal, as well as written biographies on Keats and Shelley for Chadwyck-Healey Literature Online. Ruston's book-length publications include The Influence and Anxiety of the British Romantics: Spectres of Romanticism, released in 1999 by Edwin Mellon Press, Shelley and Vitality, a 2005 Palgrave Macmillan publication, and Romanticism, issued in 2007 through the Continuum press.

Shelley and Vitality places Ruston's research interests regarding the correlation between science and literary figures at the center of its thesis. The publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, summarized: "Ruston presents new biographical information to link Shelley to a medical circle and St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London." Not only does the text provide information regarding Shelley's medical interests, but it also argues for an understanding of this pursuit as more than just a means for professional advancement in its articulation of Shelley's relationships with, among others, William Lawrence and William Godwin. Medical History reviewer Christopher Lawrence stated: "Ruston's achievement is to show how deeply Shelley was interested in vitality questions for poetical and political reasons besides the more mundane one of obtaining a surgical education." In addition to creating a social context for Shelley's pursuit of scientific knowledge and its creative uses, the text includes the argument concerning life between the surgeons William Lawrence and John Abernethy, also known to scholars as the "vitality debate," in an attempt to place Shelley within the sphere of this critical discussion. Lawrence further noted that the voluminous amount of scholarly materials detailing the vitality debate "is very sophisticated, and Ruston, thankfully, has used it to full effect showing how controversies about vitality in this period were part of the common context and not confined within disciplinary boundaries." Moreover, Ruston examines several of Shelley's works, such as Prometheus Unbound and the Defense of Poetry, and freely extracts passages and the poet's word choices in order to reinforce her literary theory. A writer in Reference & Research Book News described Ruston's treatment of Shelley as an attempt to reveal how the poet incorporated metaphysical questions regarding life and the "vocabulary of the vitality debate" into his work. In addition, Cian Duffy, in an essay for the Modern Language Review, commented that the author firmly determines "that the vitality debate provided Shelley with a powerful vocabulary for expressing his ideas about imaginative and political processes, and the relationship between them." Duffy also observed that the study "contributes valuably both to the ongoing recovery of the historical registers of Shelley's work and to our understanding of the Gordian relationship between science and literature in the ‘Romantic’ period." The text seeks to reconcile Shelley's peculiar behaviors, which have been commonly attributed to mere artistic outlandishness, with his sincere curiosity regarding these larger philosophical questions, which were also popular topics of Shelley's era. This curiosity, Ruston argues, is manifested in Shelley's creative works and offers an insight into the celebrated poet's psyche.



Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December 1, 2005, G.A. Cevaso, review of Shelley and Vitality, p. 661.

Keats-Shelley Journal, January 1, 2006, Robert Mitchell, "Literature, Science and Exploration in the Romantic Era: Bodies of Knowledge," p. 275.

Modern Language Review, April 1, 2007, Cian Duffy, review of Shelley and Vitality, p. 489.

Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2005, review of Shelley and Vitality.

Times Literary Supplement, September 2, 2005, Nora Crook, review of Shelley and Vitality, p. 26.


Bangor University Web site, (June 10, 2008), faculty profile.

Keele University Web site, (October 17, 2006), faculty profile.

Medical History Online, (July 1, 2006), review of Shelley and Vitality, p. 416.

Palgrave Macmillan Web site, (April 8, 2005), summary of Shelley and Vitality.