Dr Karl Bell
I am a cultural and social historian of the nineteenth century and director of the Supernatural Cities project. In 2013 I received the Katharine Briggs Award for my second monograph, The Legend of Spring-heeled Jack.
My research interests fall under the umbrella heading of "the fantastical imagination". I take this to include magical beliefs and practices, ghosts and the supernatural, prophecy and millenarianism, legends, folklore and (proto-) science-fiction tropes in the modern period (anything post-1700). I am particularly interested in the way these ideas and mentalities informed the experience and understanding of modernisation.
At the same time I use these rather offbeat areas of historical research to explore the nature of different types of nineteenth-century cultures and the concept of modernity. I am happy to supervise PhDs on any of these weird and wonderful topics. I have been a member of the University of Portsmouth's History team since 2007.
My current research interests include
- Researching and writing a popular cultural history of the Atlantic Ocean as a supernatural environment (contracted by Reaktion).
- Exploring interdisciplinary and technological approaches to understanding urban space and the creative imagination via the development and co-leadership of the 'Portsmyth' project.
- Changing representations of witches and witchcraft in nineteenth-century cheap literature and popular culture.
- Completing a chapter on the humanising of the Devil in western culture, 1850 - 2000.