Associate Professor Lisa O'Connell

Associate Professor

School of Communication and Arts
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+61 7 336 53323


Lisa specializes in British Literature of the eighteenth-century. She trained at Melbourne and Brown universities and has held fellowships at various international English departments including Johns Hopkins University and the Free University Berlin.

Her research interests include marriage plots, sentimental fiction, theories of enlightenment and secularization and early global literatures. She has published on topics including the English marriage plot, libertinism, popular anthropology, travel narrative, settler fiction and courtesan memoirs. Her Australian Research Council-funded Discovery Projects include 'Secularisation and British Literature, 1600-1800' and 'The Cultural Impact of Irregular Marriage in the Age of British Colonialism'.

She teaches the history of the novel, the literature of enlightenment, Gothic fiction and literary realism in the School of Communication and Arts where she is available to supervise honours and post-graduate theses across the broad fields of novel studies, post-colonialism, women's writing and global fiction.

Lisa's recent research includes The Origins of the English Marriage Plot: Literature, Politics and Religion in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge UP, 2019), a new account of why and how marriage became central to the English novel. In 2020 she co-edited a collection of essays titled 'Catalysts of Change: Colonial Transformations of Anglo-European Literary Culture in the Long 18th Century', published in Postcolonial Studies 23: 3 (Taylor & Francis). Her essay in that collection reveals the neglected links between Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the fiction of Therese Huber, the German author of the first novel set in the Australian penal colony.

She is currently working on three collaborative projects:

1. 'Spaces of Enlightenment', with Dr Peter Denney (Griffith U), a forthcoming special issue of Eighteenth-Century Life (Duke UP);

2. 'Natures of Enlightenment: Cultures of Environment, 1700-1840', a co-edited book with Dr Peter Denney which brings together ecocriticism and environmental history in an innovative study of the ecological dimensions of the British world during the long eighteenth century;

3. Why Literature Matters: Shakespeare and the Rise of the Novel: a research project which examines the process of literary canonisation in a new and illuminating way. It does so by concentrating both on Shakespeare and the novel form. More specifically, it attempts to ascertain how the terms on which Shakespeare became the presiding genius of English literary culture from the end of the 17th century on related to the conditions in which the novel moved from being a popular form to a sanctioned and aestheticised literary form in the 19th century. This is an important question precisely because the criteria for anointing Shakespeare seem to be so different from the criteria used to sanction the novel. The project aims to help us understand the situation today in which the literary canon is losing prestige even as ‘English' remains a national priority for Australian education.

Research Interests

  • Secularization and the Novel
    My work in this field uses and expands upon recent models of European secularization to develop a new account of the marriage plot's importance to British literary history. It shows that the early novel did not conform to a narrative of triumphant secularization. Rather, it knew no secular/religious divide at all.
  • 18th Century British literature
  • Gothic Fiction
  • Theories of Enlightenment
  • Gender Studies
    18th and early 19th-century women’s writing; history of sexuality; marriage fiction and law; courtesan memoirs.
  • Colonial and Postcolonial Studies
    settler colonial writing (Australia & New Zealand); British travel writing 1700-1820; 18th-century popular ethnography; early global literatures.


  • PhD, Brown
  • Master of Arts, University of Melbourne
  • Bachelor of Arts (Hons), University of Melbourne


View all Publications


View all Supervision



Book Chapter

  • O’Connell, Lisa (2020). Sensible distances: The colonial projections of therese huber and e. g. wakefield. Matters of Engagement: Emotions, Identity, and Cultural Contact in the Premodern World. (pp. 216-230) London, United Kingdom: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9780429488689-14

  • O'Connell, Lisa (2017). Nationalism. Samuel Richardson in context. (pp. 311-318) edited by Peter Sabor and Betty A. Schellenberg. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/9781316576755.039

  • O'Connell, Lisa (2014). The libertine, the rake, and the dandy: personae, styles, and affects. The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature. (pp. 218-238) edited by E. L. McCallum and Mikko Tuhkanen. New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CHO9781139547376.015

  • O'Connell, Lisa (2008). Settler colonialism, utility, romance: E. G. Wakefield’s letter from Sydney. Burden or benefit? The legacies of benevolence. (pp. 49-60) edited by H. Gilbert and C. Tiffin. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

  • O'Connell, Lisa M. (2006). Gretna Green Novels. Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. (pp. 477-481) edited by David Scott Kastan. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

  • O'Connell, Lisa (2004). Authorship and libertine celebrity: Harriette Wilson’s regency memoirs. Libertine enlightenment: Sex, liberty and licence in the eighteenth century. (pp. 161-181) edited by P. Cryle. London: Palgrave. doi: 10.1057/9780230522817

  • O'Connell, Lisa M. (2004). Gender, Sexuality and the Family: Women's Writing, Language and Readership in The Lady's Magazine, 1770-1832. Defining gender, 1450-1910 : five centuries of advice literature online. (pp. Online-Online) edited by Sara Mendelson, Claire Walsh, Jeremy Black and Erika Rappaport. Online: Adam Matthew Publications.

  • O'Connell, Lisa (2003). Matrimonial Ceremonies Displayed: Popular Ethnography and Enlightened Imperialism. Exoticism and the Culture of Exploration. (pp. 98-116) edited by Robert Maccubbin and Christa Knellwolf. Durham: Duke University Press.

  • Cryle, P. M. and O'Connell, L. M. (2003). Sex, liberty and licence in the eighteenth century. Libertine Enlightenment: Sex, Liberty and Licence in the Eighteenth Century. (pp. 1-14) edited by Peter Cryle and Lisa O'Connell. Basingstoke, England ; New York: Palgrave Macmillan. doi: 10.1057/9780230522817

  • O'Connell, L. M. (2002). Scotland 1800: A Tourist's Matrimonial Guide. In Transit: Travel, Text, Empire. (pp. 21-44) edited by H Gilbert and A Johnston. New York: Peter Lang.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • O'Connell, Lisa (2010). Ethnographical humanism and the English marriage plot. Thinking the Human in the Era of Enlightenment, Canberra, Australia, 7-9 July 2010. Canberra, Australia: Australian National University.

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Master Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision