Academic Staff

Dr James Canton

Staff positionLecturer
Telephone01206 872446

I have written widely in creative non-fiction forms and taught on the MA in Wild Writing at the University of Essex since its inception in 2009, exploring the fascinating ties between the literature and landscape of East Anglia. I have run many workshops to encourage writing on nature and landscape, and worked on Radio 4 detailing the writing and landscapes of Essex such as for ‘Something Understood’ on John Clare and Epping Forest (August 2014) and ‘Open Country’ on Tollesbury Wick and literary Essex (November 2015).


My book Out of Essex: Re-Imagining a Literary Landscape (2013) is inspired by rural wanderings in the county. Combining detailed literary detective work with personal responses to landscapes and their meanings, Out of Essex seeks to offer a fresh vision of Essex, its cultural history and its living legacy of wilderness and imagination.

My latest work Ancient Wonderings: Journeys into Prehistoric Britain is forthcoming with Collins in 2017.


BA Exeter; MA Open; PhD Essex

Research interests

Nature writing and the ‘new nature writing’ movement; creative non-fiction; ecocriticism; psychogeography and the rural derive; deep topography; writing on the Essex landscape; the writers of Essex; British travel writing on Arabia; travel writing and theory; the work of W.G. Sebald; the interface between colonial history and postcolonialism.



Ancient Wonderings: Journeys into Prehistoric Britain (London: Collins, forthcoming, 2017)

Out of Essex: Re-Imagining a Literary Landscape (Oxford: Signal Books, 2013)

From Cairo to Baghdad: British Travellers in Arabia (London: I. B. Tauris, 2011)

- A Cairo edition of From Cairo to Baghdad has also been published by the American University Press, November 2011.


'Marmaduke Pickthall’s Travels to the Near East’ in Marmaduke Pickthall, Islam and the Modern World, edited by Geoffrey Nash (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, forthcoming 2016)

‘Oriental Expressions: British Visions of Arabia in a Post-Colonial World’ in Experiencing Imperialism: Interdisciplinary and Transnational Perspectives of the British Abroad since the Eighteenth Century, edited by Martin Farr and Xavier Guégan (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave,  2013)

Journal Articles

‘North Norfolk’ in EarthLines (Forthcoming, 2013)

‘An Oak’s Heart’ in EarthLines, 3, November 2012

‘Untangling British Nature Writing’ in EarthLines, 1, May 2012

‘Imperial Eyes: Imperial Spies, British Travel and Espionage in Southern Arabia, 1891-1946’ in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vol. 37, No. 4, December 2009, pp. 537-554

‘Search for Essex wildlife writer’ in Wyvern, March 2009

Book Reviews

'Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human'  by Vybarr Cregan-Reid (London: Ebury, 2016) in Times Literary Supplement, 8 July 2016

‘Seen in the Yemen’ by Hugh Leach (London: Arabian Publishing, 2011) in Journal of Arabian Studies (2013)

‘The Old Ways’ by Robert Macfarlane (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2012) in Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism (2013)

‘Travellers to the Middle East from Burckhardt to Thesiger: An Anthology’ edited by Geoffrey Nash (London: Anthem Press, 2009) in Studies in Travel Writing (2012).

‘The Arabian Frontier of the Raj: Merchants, Rulers, and the British in the Nineteenth-Century Gulf’ by James Onley (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007) in Times Literary Supplement, 5475, (7 March 2008), 30.

‘From Empire to Orient: Travellers to the Middle East 1830-1926’ by Geoffrey Nash (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2005) in Studies in Travel Writing, 10 (2006), 179-80.

Reader Reports

For Studies in Travel Writing, October 2011.


‘Interested in the Other’ by Eamonn Gearon, Times Literary Supplement, 18 November 2011, pp. 8-9.

- Full review of From Cairo to Baghdad: British Travellers in Arabia
(London: I. B. Tauris, 2011)

Study areas


'The Rout of the Gipsey: John Clare In and Out of Essex, ' John Clare Society, Epping Hall, Epping, 8th October 2016

Co-ordinating and Introducing J. A. Baker: Official Launch of the Archive -- A Day of Talks and Discussions on J. A. Baker's Life, Work and Legacy, Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex, 6th July 2016

‘On John Clare’ introductory talk for showing of ‘By Our Selves’, Wivenhoe, April 2016

Wild Writing Laboratory: writing workshop, University of Essex, March 2016

Lecture series on Wild Writing, Moscow University of Economics, May 2015

‘Bones’: Essex Book Festival, (8 March 2014), University of Essex

‘Green Knowledge’, Association for the Study of Literature in the Environment (ASLE) conference, Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge (September 2015). Chairing panel on ‘New Nature Writing’ comprising four MA Wild Writing students from Essex.

‘Oriental Expressions: British Visions of Arabia in a Post-Colonial World’ at British Abroad: from the Grand Tour to Mass Tourism, University of Newcastle, 1-2 April 2010

‘“No Camels; No Little Brown Boys”: Seeing Arabia after Suez, Aden and Thesiger’ at After Empire? Leeds Humanities Research Institute, University of Leeds, 26-7 September, 2008

‘Imperial Eyes: Imperial Spies. British Travel and Espionage in Southern Arabia, 1891-1946’ at Perspectives – Postgraduate Conference, University of Essex, 10 May 2008

‘Imperial Eyes: Imperial Spies. British Travel and Espionage in Southern Arabia, 1891-1946’ at New Directions in Travel Writing II – Postgraduate colloquium, Nottingham Trent University, 4 January 2008

‘Surveying the Scene: Towards an Understanding of British Travel Writing on Arabia since 1882’ at New Directions in Travel Writing – Postgraduate colloquium, Nottingham Trent University, 6 January 2006



‘Back into the Wild: Towards a New Nature Writing’ ( March 2016), University of Essex.


Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London (23 April 2012)

Wigan Literary Festival (12 April 2012)

Essex Book Festival: ‘Trees Shall be Our Books’ (3 March 2012), University of Essex.

‘Out of Essex: Re-imagining the Literary Landscape’ (1 March 2012), Hedingham Heritage Society, Hedingham, Essex.

Book launch: ‘From Cairo to Baghdad’ (1 December 2011), University of Essex.

Essex Book Festival: ‘A Conference of Birds’ (12 March 2011), University of Essex.

‘Out of Essex’ (10 March 2011), Halstead Heritage Society, Halstead, Essex.

Essex Book Festival: ‘J. A. Baker: A Wild Essex Writer’ (20 March 2010), Colchester Library, Colchester, Essex.

‘On J. A. Baker’s The Peregrine’ (18 March 2009), Halstead Library, Halstead, Essex.


‘Tidal Margins ’ at The Peter Peers Gallery, Aldeburgh (21-26 September 2012)


BBC Essex, ‘On J. A. Baker’, 12 March 2009

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