Dr Jennifer McDonell

Deputy Head of School and Senior Lecturer in English, School of Arts

Jennifer McDonell

Phone: +61 2 6773 2517

Mobile: 0407 466 405

Email: jmcdonel@une.edu.au


Jennifer completed a BA (Hons Class I), MA (Hons Class I) and PhD at the University of Sydney. Her doctoral thesis examined the cultural contexts of Robert Browning’s magnum opus, The Ring and the Book, and her master's thesis examined John Ashbery's poetry and New York School painting. Jennifer has broad teaching experience covering most of the major literary periods and, before coming to the University of New England, held full-time teaching positions at the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales (Canberra).

Jennifer’s main research interests lie in Victorian literature and culture, with an emphasis on the work of Robert Browning and material culture; and in Human and Animal Studies, particularly in relation to animals in the Victorian period.

She is currently Deputy Head of School and Chair of Teaching and Learning in the School of Arts. She is also a member of the Dickens Project, University of California, Santa Cruz and life member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.


BA (Hons), MA (Hons), PhD (U Sydney)


Modern Language Association (MLA)
Australasian Animal Studies Association
Australasian Victorian Studies Association

Jennifer is a member of the Nineteenth-Century Studies Network and also the Posthuman Literary and Cultural Studies Research Group at the University of New England, and is currently Vice-Chair of the Australasian Animal Studies Association (AASA).

Teaching Areas

Victorian Literature and Culture
Contemporary Critical Theory and Practice
Twentieth-Century Literature.

Jennifer is the recipient of national, state and institutional teaching awards:

  • Carrick Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning 2007 (Individual category)
  • NSW Minister for Education and Training and the Australian College of Educators Quality Teaching Award (Individual category) 2007.
  • University of New England Vice-Chancellor's Awards for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (Individual category) 2007.

Research Interests

Situated at the intersection of Victorian studies and Human and Animal studies my current research focuses primarily on the question and condition of the animal Other. The ‘NonHuman turn’ in the Humanities, which emerged in the final decades of the twentieth century, addresses some the most urgent and difficult conceptual issues in Humanities scholarship: the politics and material practices of species difference, the functions of animals in nature/cultures, and the fragile status of the ‘human’ in an era of accelerated environmental crisis. Supported by both textual analysis and archival work, my research in this area aims to identify and analyse intersections between species and discourses of gender, class, race, ethnicity in Victorian literature and culture. I have published articles and chapters on Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her dog, Flush; mourning, sentimentality and pets in Victorian England; and literary human and animal studies and the academy. I have also written on topics as varied as bric-à-brac and cabinets of curiosity, difficulty and celebrity in Robert Browning’s poetry, and on Browning studies and the history of Academic English in Australia. Current research projects include chapters on  ‘Dickens and Animal Studies’ for the Oxford Handbook to Charles Dickens (eds, John Jordan, Robert Patten and Catherine Waters);‘Animals in Victorian Literature and Culture’ for the Routledge Handbook for Animal-Human History (eds Philip Howell and Hilda Kean) and ‘London’s Smithfield Markets and the Politics of Site/Sight’ A History of Literary Animals (eds. Derek Ryan, Jane Spencer and Karen Edward) for Routledge.


Articles and Book Chapters (2010 - )

2015. ‘Literary Fame, Henry James and the Problem of Robert Browning.’ Critical Survey. Special Issue: Celebrity Encounters: Famous Americans in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Eds. Paraic Finnerty and Mark Frost. 27.3 (2015): 43-63. (7000 words).

2015. ‘Animals.’ The Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature. Felluga, Dino Franco, Pamela K. Gilbert and Linda K. Hughes. Eds) Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2015. BlackwellReferenceOnline.http://www.literatureencyclopedia.com/subscriber/tocnode.html?id=g9781118405383_chunk_g97811184053833_ss1-13> (5000 words).

2014. '"The Fascination of What's Difficult": Browning and MacCallum's Classroom.’ Modern Language Quarterly, Special Issue: Lessons from the Past: the History of Academic English. 75.2 (2014): 193-214 (7000 words).

Examines Mungo W. MacCallum's public lectures, and teaching of Browning at the University of Sydney from the 1890s-1920s; proposes a genealogy of ‘difficulty’.

2014. Leigh Dale and Jennifer McDonell. ‘Lessons From the Past?’ Modern Language Quarterly. Special Issue: Lessons from the Past: the History of Academic English. 75.2 (2014): 119–27. (4500 words)

2013. 'Browning's Curiosities: The Ring and the Book and the "democracy of things''' in Literary Bric-à-Brac and the Victorians: From Commodities to Oddities. Eds. Jonathon Shears and Jenn Harrison. The Nineteenth Century Series. Aldershot: Ashgate Press 2013. Pp. 67-83. ISBN: 978-1-4094-3990-5.

Examines the way Browning's narrativisation of collecting things raises important questions about the regimes of value that define the circulation of objects, texts and artworks across boundaries local and national.

2013. '"This you'll call sentimental, perhaps": Animal Death and the Propriety of Mourning.' Victorian Vocabularies. Ed. Jessical Gildersleeve. Macquarie University, Sydney: Macquarie Lighthouse Publishing, 2013. pp 111-32.

Problematises discourses of 'sentimentality'; strong affective responses at the loss of pets by Victorian writers was perceived by others to be a threat to 'legitimate' emotional, ethical, and political attachments.

2013. 'English Studies at the University of New England: a Report from the Field'. Australian Literary Studies. The English Issue. Eds. Leigh Dale and Tania Dalziel. pp 149-162.

2013. 'Literary Studies, the Animal Turn, and the Academy', Social Alternatives. 32 (4) 2013. pp 4-16.

Examines the field of literary human-animal studies; analyses some of the major theoretical challenges posed by a philosophically rigorous HAS to traditional notions of disciplinarity. Discusses race/species intersectionality by way of reference to the Bandit and Michael Vick cases in the US; and discourses of reason and animality in relation to J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace.

2012. 'A la lisière de l'humanité: les chiens, l'affect et la division des espèces dans l'Angleterre du XIXe siècle' in "Aux frontières de l'animal. Mises en scènes et réflexivités". Eds. Annik Dubied, Juliet Fall and David Gerber. Geneva and Paris: Librarie Droz. 2012. pp. 119-141. ISBN:10- 2-600-01527-2.

Examines through historically situated nineteenth-century case studies how human/canine interspecies affect foregrounds instabilities inherent in the way of culture hierarchically arranges its species significations and values.

2012. 'Critical Introduction' in Robert Browning: The Complete Poetical Works. 2 Vols. Newcastle Upon Tyne. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. v-xviii. ISBN: 13:978-1-4438-1902-2; ISMN: 1-4438-1902-6.

2010. '"Ladies' Pets" and the Politics of Affect: Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Jane Welsh Carlyle', Australian Literary Studies. 23.1 (June 2010). pp. 17-34.

Singled out by leading Elizabeth Barrett Browning scholar, Marjorie Stone, in Victorian Poetry 49.3 (2011) as 'the most sophisticated, extended, and original treatment of this subject to date'.

2010. McDonell, J., Parkes, M and Tynan, B. 'Virtual tutor support with Smarthinking and key barriers to its successful implementation'. Refereed full paper. 27th annual ASCALITE (Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education Conference) in December 2010.

Other: As Editor

2010. Co-Editor, Australian Literary Studies. Special Issue: Animals and Literature. 23.1 (June 2010). With Leigh Dale.

2014. Co-Editor. Modern Language Quarterly. Special Issue: Lessons from the Past: the History of Academic English. 75.2 (June 2014). With Leigh Dale.

Refereed Conference Proceedings (2009 - )

2015. ‘Location. Location, Location: London’s Smithfield Markets and the Politics of Site/Sight’. Animal Publics: Emotions, Empathy, Activism, University of Melbourne, July 12-15, 2015.

2014. ‘Dangerous Dogs and the New Poor Law: Reading Dickens’s Bull’s eye’. Reading Animals, University of Sheffield, 18 July 2014.

2014. 'Literary Fame, Henry James and the Problem of Robert Browning'. Celebrity Encounters: Transatlantic Fame in Nineteenth-Century Britain and America, University of Portsmouth, 4-5 July 2014.

2013. 'Browning and the Global Circulation of Literary Value'. The Global and Local. Supernumerary conference of NAVSA (North American Victorian Studies Association), BAVS (British Association for Victorian Studies) and AVSA (Australasian Victorian Studies Association). June 3. 2013, Venice, Italy.

2012. Invited Paper. 'Mourning the Animal Dead: Sentimentality and the Care Tradition in Animal Ethics'. Danse Macabre: Emotional Responses to Death and Dying from Medieval to Contemporary Times. The ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, University of Sydney. Australian Museum. 21 September, 2012.

2012. 'Inordinate Affection: Animal Death and Emotion in Nineteenth-Century Sentimental Culture', Animal Death, University of Sydney 13 June 2012.

2012. 'Sentiment and Sympathy in Victorian Pet Narratives'. Victorian Vocabularies. Australasian Victorian Studies Association, Griffith University, Brisbane, 11-14 April, 2012.

2011. 'Browning's Things'. Composition and Decomposition. British Association for Victorian Studies, University of Birmingham September 1-3 2011.

2011. 'Crying Over a Dead Dog: Animals and Emotion in Victorian Sentimental Culture'. Representing Animals in Britain, University of Rennes II, Rennes, France. October 20, 2011.

2010. 'Bulls-Eye: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog', Dickens Universe, University of California Santa Cruz, 3 August 2010.

2009. '"Ladies Pets" and the Politics of Affect in Mid-Victorian England'. Minding Animals – the 2009 International Academic and Community Conference on Animals and Society, Civic Centre, Newcastle, 13-19 July, 2009.

2009. 'Natural and Unnatural Histories: Human and Non Human Animals in the Films of Mark Lewis'. Minding Animals - the 2009 International Academic and Community Conference on Animals and Society, Civic Centre, Newcastle, 13-19 July, 2009

Research Supervision Experience

I have extensive experience in supervising higher degree research theses in nineteenth and twentieth century literature, including interdisciplinary topics. I welcome students wishing to undertake research topics in the areas of Victorian literature and culture; in Human-Animal studies; and Literature and the environment.

Further Information

The Dickens Project

Australasian Animal Studies Association

Australasian Victorian Studies Association

The Nineteenth-Century Studies Network, UNE

Posthuman Literary and Cultural Studies Research Group, UNE

Minding Animals International