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Peter Walmsley, Ph.D.

Professor of English

Phone: 905-525-9140 ext. 23739
Office: Chester New Hall, Room 314

Areas of Interest

Restoration and 18th-century British writing; science and philosophy; representations of labour in the Enlightenment; slavery; colonization; indigeneity


Peter Walmsley studies and teaches British and colonial literatures and cultures from 1660 to1830. His early research attended to philosophical and scientific discourses in the first half of this period. His first book, The Rhetoric of Berkeley’s Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 1990), shows how Bishop Berkeley’s affective and pragmatic linguistics is at work in the design of his major philosophical texts. Over the following decade, with the help of grants from both SSHRCC and the Hannah Foundation, he worked closely with the Lovelace collection of John Locke’s journals and notebooks in Oxford, research that led ultimately to Locke’s Essay and the Rhetoric of Science (Bucknell University Press, 2003). This book shows how, in his enormously influential Essay concerning Human Understanding (1689), Locke embraces the new rhetoric of seventeenth-century natural philosophy, adopting the strategies of his scientific contemporaries to create a highly original natural history of the human mind. Between 2003 and 2015, Peter Walmsley was on the editorial team of Eighteenth-Century Fiction, now led by Dr. Gena Zuroski, and in 2011, with Dr. Emily West and Sonya Zikic, he organized a joint meeting in Hamilton of the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Northeast American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and the Aphra Behn Society. More recently, Peter Walmsley’s work has turned to shifting attitudes to labour in Enlightenment Britain. His SSHRCC-funded project Manufacturing Subjects: The Cultural Politics of Labour in Britain, 1690-1750 investigates the revaluation of skilled work and personal industry in genres as diverse as sermons, trade handbooks, novels, and scientific texts. He also has a longstanding research interest in the material cultures of death and proto-Gothic writing in the eighteenth-century. In his teaching, Peter Walmsley has built on recent critical interest in ideas of nation-building, colonization, and consumption. Current graduate courses include Discourses of Empire 1700-1820 and Getting and Spending: The Birth of Consumer Culture. He has supervised extensively at the graduate level, his MA and PhD students exploring topics from colonial botany, to early eighteenth-century farce, to the ecologies of ship-board life, and many have gone on to SSHRCC post-doctoral fellowships and tenure-track jobs at universities in Canada, the United States, and Britain. In 2002 he won McMaster’s President’s Award for Graduate Supervision.





Locke’s Essay and the Rhetoric of Science. Bucknell University Press, 2003.






The Rhetoric of Berkeley’s Philosophy. Cambridge UP, 1990.






Refereed Journal Special Issues:

Lumen: Selected Proceedings from the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Vol. 32. Université de Montréal, 2013. Co-editors Peter Walmsley and Emily West.




Trades / Le Négoce [Special Issue]. Eighteenth-Century Fiction. 23.2 (2010).







Death / La Mort [Special Issue]. Eighteenth-Century Fiction. 21.1 (2008).





Refereed Book Chapters:

“Death and Mourning Culture,” accepted for publication in Samuel Richardson in Context, ed. Peter Sabor and Betty Schellenberg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 12 MS pages, scheduled for summer 2017

“Rhetoric and Science in the Enlightenment,” Oxford Handbook on Rhetorical Studies, ed. Michael MacDonald (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014 online; 2017 print), 24 MS pages.

“The Melancholy Briton: Enlightenment Sources of the Gothic.” Enlightening Romanticism, Romancing the Enlightenment: British Novels from 1750 to 1832. Ed. Miriam L. Wallace. Ashgate, 2009. 39-53.

“Death and the Nation in the Spectator.” The Spectator: Emerging Discourses. Ed. Donald J. Newman. University of Delaware P, 2005. 200-219.

“Science, Masculinity, and Empire in Elizabeth Hamilton’s Hindoo Rajah.” Imagining the Sciences: Expressions of New Knowledge in the “Long” Eighteenth Century. Eds. Robert C. Leitz III and Kevin L. Cope. AMS, 2004. 149-176. Series: AMS Studies in the Eighteenth Century.

“Neoclassical Aesthetics and an Essay on Criticism.” Approaches to Teaching Pope’s Poetry. Eds. Wallace Jackson and R. Paul Yoder. Mod. Lang. Assn. of America, 1993. 122-127. Series: Approaches to Teaching World Literature.

“Guardian #39: Berkeley’s Allegory of Mind.” Enlightening Allegory: Theory, Practice, and Contexts of Allegory in the Late Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Ed. Kevin L. Cope. AMS, 1993. 373-388. Series: AMS Studies in the Eighteenth Century.

Refereed Journal Articles:

“The African Artisan Meets the English Sailor: Technology and the Savage for Defoe,” accepted for publication by Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 28 MS pages, scheduled for Fall 2018

“Robinson Crusoe’s Canoes,” accepted for publication in Eighteenth-Century Life, 25 MS pages, scheduled 2018

Whigs in Heaven: Elizabeth Rowe’s Friendship in Death.” Eighteenth-Century Studies. 44.3 (2011): 315-30.

“Berkeley and the University.” Lumen: Selected Proceedings from the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. 14 (1995): 63-77.

Prince Maurice’s Rational Parrot: Civil Discourse in Locke’s Essay.” Eighteenth-Century Studies. 28.4 (1995): 413-25.

“Dispute and Conversation: Probability and the Rhetoric of Natural Philosophy in Locke’s Essay.” Journal of the History of Ideas. 54.3 (1993): 381-94.

“Locke’s Cassowary and the Ethos of the Essay.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture. 22 (1992): 253-67.