Angela Esterhammer

Professor; Graduate Faculty; Undergraduate Instructor; Associate Faculty: Centre for Comparative Literature; Affiliate Faculty: Collaborative Specialization in Book History and Print Culture; Associate Faculty: Department of German
Jackman Humanities Building, Room 915, 170 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5R 2M8. Victoria College, Room 102, 73 Queens Park #106, Toronto, ON M5S 1K7


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • Comparative literature
  • Scottish Literature


Angela Esterhammer works in the areas of British, German, and European Romanticism and nineteenth-century culture, from perspectives that emphasize performativity and performance. Her books Creating States (1994) and The Romantic Performative (2000) approach literary texts from the viewpoint of verbal performativity, speech acts, and philosophies of language. Romanticism and Improvisation, 1750-1850 (2008) uncovers the popularity of on-stage poetic improvisers during the “Romantic century,” tracing the influence of improvisational poetry across Europe and showing how improvisation interacts with Romantic ideas about genius, spontaneity, orality, gender, and national identity (see also the online database “The Improvisation of Poetry, 1750-1850”). Her recent book, Print and Performance in the 1820s: Improvisation, Speculation, Identity (2020), concerns experimental uses of textual, visual, and performative media during the 1820s. As the General Editor of The Works of John Galt, she leads an international project to publish a 20-volume critical edition of Galt’s fiction. Other areas covered in her research and teaching are Romantic poetry (Blake, Coleridge, Byron, Hemans, Landon, Hölderlin) and fiction (Scott, Godwin, Kleist, Staël). Professional roles include: Founding Member and Executive Committee member of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR); Founding Director of Western University's graduate program in Comparative Literature and the University of Zurich's PhD program in English and American Literary Studies; Past President of the Canadian Comparative Literature Association. She is a past holder of the Distinguished University Professorship (Western), the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, and the Polanyi Prize for Literature, a member of the Academia Europaea, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.



Print and Performance in the 1820s: Improvisation, Speculation, Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge UP (2020).

Editor, Three Short Novels: Glenfell; Andrew of Padua, the Improvisatore; The Omen. By John Galt. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020.

Co-editor (with Diane Piccitto and Patrick Vincent), Romanticism, Rousseau, Switzerland: New Prospects. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 229 pp.

Co-editor (with Diane Piccitto and Patrick Vincent), Romantic Prospects. Special conference issue of European Romantic Review 24.3 (June 2013). 132 pp.

Co-editor (with Alexander J. Dick), Spheres of Action: Speech and Performance in Romantic Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

Romanticism and Improvisation, 1750-1850. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Co-editor (with Jefferson J. A. Gatrall), Identity and Community: Constructions, Deconstructions, Reconstructions. Special issue of Arcadia: International Journal of Literary Studies 43 (2008), No. 1.

Editor, Northrop Frye on Milton and Blake. Volume 16 of the Collected Works of Northrop Frye. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.

Spontaneous Overflows and Revivifying Rays: Romanticism and the Discourse of Improvisation. Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2004.

Co-editor (with Vladimir Biti). Framing Contingency. Special issue of Arcadia 39 (2004), No. 2.

Editor, Romantic Poetry. Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2002.

The Romantic Performative: Language and Action in British and German Romanticism. Stanford University Press, 2000.

Creating States: Studies in the Performative Language of John Milton and William Blake. University of Toronto Press, 1994. 245 pp.

Two Stories of Prague, by R. M. Rilke. A translation and critical introduction. University Press of New England, 1994. 109 pp.

Editor, Philosophies of Genre. Special Issue of European Romantic Review, 5 (1994), No. 1. 131 pp.

Selected Articles

“Late Romanticism and Print Culture in Western Europe.” The Cambridge History of European Romantic Literature. Ed. Patrick Vincent. Cambridge: Cambridge UP (forthcoming 2023).

“Truth, Fiction and Breaking News: Theodore Hook and the Poyais Speculation.” Remediating the 1820s. Ed. Jon Mee and Matthew Sangster. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2023. 1-20.

“Counterfactual Speculations in Late Romanticism: Scott, Banim, Galt, and Mitford.” Counterfactual Romanticism. Ed. Damian Walford Davies. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2019. 232-50.

“Political Economy and Narrative Performance in John Galt’s The Entail.The Politics of Romanticism. Ed. Pascal Fischer and Christoph Houswitschka. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2019. 193-202.

“The Reception of Blake in Switzerland.” The Reception of William Blake in Europe. 2 vols. Ed. Morton D. Paley and Sibylle Erle. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019. 1: 299-309.

“The 1820s and Beyond.” The Oxford Handbook of British Romanticism. Ed. David Duff. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2018. 74-88.

“Galt the Speculator: Sir Andrew Wylie, The Entail, and Lawrie Todd.” The International Companion to John Galt. Ed. Gerard Carruthers and Colin Kidd. Glasgow: Scottish Literature International, 2017. 44-56.

“Ambiguous Identities in Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner and Its Late-Romantic Contexts.” Romantic Ambiguities: Abodes of the Modern. Ed. Sebastian Domsch, Christoph Reinfandt, and Katharina Rennhak. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2017. 181-92.

“Speculative Fiction and Counterfactual Narrative in Scottish and Irish Romanticism.” Narratives of Romanticism. Ed. Sandra Heinen and Katharina Rennhak. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2017. 115-21.

“Counterfactual Speculations in Late Romanticism: Scott, Banim, Galt, and Mitford.” Counterfactual Romanticism, ed. Damian Walford Davies (Manchester UP, forthcoming 2018).

“The Reception of Blake in Switzerland.” The Reception of William Blake in Europe, ed. Morton D. Paley and Sibylle Erle. London: Bloomsbury Academic (forthcoming 2018).

“Identity Crises and Unaccountable Acts: More Contexts for Hogg’s Justified Sinner.” Studies in Hogg and his World 25-26 (2015-16): 3-20.

“The 1820s and Beyond.” The Oxford Handbook of British Romanticism. Ed. David S. Duff. Oxford: Oxford UP (forthcoming 2018).

“Speculation in the Late-Romantic Literary Marketplace.” Victoriographies 7.1 (2017): 7-24.

“John Galt’s The Omen: Interpretation and Its Discontents.” European Romantic Review 27.4 (August 2016): 489-503.

“The Improvisation of Poetry, 1750-1850: Oral Performance, Print Culture, and the Modern Homer.” The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies. Vol. 1. Ed. George E. Lewis and Benjamin Piekut. New York: Oxford UP, 2016. 239-54.

“Identity Crises: Celebrity, Anonymity, Doubles, and Frauds in European Romanticism.” The Oxford Handbook of European Romanticism. Ed. Paul Hamilton. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. 771-87.

“Improvisation, Speculation, and Mediality: The Late-Romantic Information Age.” Europäische Romantik: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven der Forschung. Ed. Helmut Hühn and Joachim Schiedermair. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2015. 229-37.

“Afterword: The Audience, the Public, and the Improvisator Maximilian Langenschwarz.” Performing Knowledge, 1750-1850. Ed. Mary Helen Dupree and Sean B. Franzel. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2015. 341-6.

“Philosophies of Identity and Impersonation from Locke to Charles Mathews.” Romanticism and Philosophy: Thinking with Literature. Ed. Sophie Laniel-Musitelli and Thomas Constantinesco. London: Routledge, 2015. 147-65.

“The Transnational Reception of Improvised Drama: Tommaso Sgricci in Paris and in the Periodicals.” Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film 41.2 (Winter 2014): 13-28.

“’Maga-scenes’: Performing Periodical Literature in the 1820s.” The Public Intellectual and the Culture of Hope. Ed. Joel R. Faflak and Jason Haslam. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013. 31-50.

“Impersonation in Late-Romantic Urban Performance and Print Culture.” Romantic Cityscapes. Ed. Jens Martin Gurr and Berit Michel. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2013. 155-64.

“John Galt’s Mediterranean Experience.” The Wordsworth Circle 43 (2012): 113-16.

1824: Improvisation, Speculation, and Identity-Construction.” BRANCH (Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History, 1775-1925). Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. 2012.

“Sayings, Doings, and Speculations: Remediating Theodore Hook’s Silver-fork Fiction.” Informal Romanticism. Ed. James Vigus. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2012. 131-43.

“Agency, Destiny, and National Character: John Galt and Europe.” John Galt: Observations and Conjectures on Literature, History, and Society. Ed. Regina Hewitt. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield/Bucknell UP, 2012. 323-44.

“Die Kunst des stimmigen Wortes. Improvisatoren und ihr Publikum im 19. Jahrhundert.” Concordia discors. Ästhetiken der Stimmung zwischen Literaturen, Künsten und Wissenschaften. Ed. Hans-Georg von Arburg and Sergej Rickenbacher. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2012. 23-34.

“John Thelwall’s Panoramic Miscellany: The Lecturer as Journalist.” John Thelwall: Critical Reassessments. Ed. Yasmin Solomonescu. Series title: Romantic Circles Praxis (September 2011). 

“Coleridge, Sgricci, and the Shows of London: Improvising in Print and Performance.” Dante and Italy in British Romanticism. Ed. Frederick Burwick and Paul Douglass. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 143-59.

“John Galt’s Fictional and Performative Worlds.” The Edinburgh Companion to Scottish Romanticism. Ed. Murray Pittock. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011. 166-77.

“Coleridge’s ‘The Improvisatore’: Poetry, Performance, and Remediation.” The Wordsworth Circle 40 (2011): 122-8.

“Spontaneity, Immediacy, and Improvisation in Romantic Poetry.” A Companion to Romantic Poetry. Ed. Charles Mahoney. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. 321-36.


BA, University of Toronto
PhD, Princeton University