Dr James Canton

Senior Lecturer
Department of Literature Film and Theatre Studies (LiFTS)
Dr James Canton
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 872446

  • Location

    5NW.4.4, Colchester Campus



James Canton is a writer and lecturer who has 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. His first book From Cairo to Baghdad (2011) explored the writings of British Travellers to Arabia from 1882 to 2003. Out of Essex: Re-Imagining a Literary Landscape (2013) is inspired by rural wanderings in the county. Ancient Wonderings: Journeys into Prehistoric Britain was published by William Collins in 2017 and tells some remarkable tales of life in ancient Britain. His latest book The Oak Papers is published with Canongate in July 2020. Twitter: @jamescanton Instagram: @jrcanton1 Website:


  • BA Exeter

  • MA Open

  • PhD Essex

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Nature writing and the New Nature Writing movement

Open to supervise

creative non-fiction

Open to supervise


Open to supervise

psychogeography and the rural derive

Open to supervise

writing on the Essex landscape

Open to supervise

the writers of Essex

British travel writing on Arabia

Open to supervise

travel writing and theory

Open to supervise

the work of W.G. Sebald

Open to supervise

the interface between colonial history and postcolonialism

Open to supervise

Conferences and presentations

Ancient Wonderings

Invited presentation, The Grant Arms Wildlife Book Festival, Grant Arms Hotel, Grantown-on-Spey, United Kingdom, 30/3/2018

J. A. Baker: His Life and Legacy

Invited presentation, Keynote presentation, The Burroughs Lecture, Nov 2017, Lakeside Theatre, Colchester, United Kingdom, 29/11/2017

The Burroughs Lecture 2017

Keynote presentation, The Burroughs Lecture 2017, Lakeside Theatre, Colchester, United Kingdom, 29/11/2017

Wigtown Literary Festival

Invited presentation, Wigtown Literary Festival, Wigtown, Wigtown, United Kingdom, 9/2017

Essex Radical Writing Retreat April 5-7 2017

United Kingdom, 2017

Roger Deakin event, Norwich Writers Centre, April 30th 2017

Norwich, United Kingdom, 2017

'The Oak Papers', The Memory of Trees Conference, University of Liverpool, April 20th 2017

Liverpool, United Kingdom, 2017

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

Epping, United Kingdom, 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

Colchester, United Kingdom, 2016

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

Colchester, United Kingdom, 2016

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

Colchester, United Kingdom, 2016

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

Colchester, United Kingdom, 2016

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

Moscow, Russia, 2015

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.

Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2015

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

Colchester, United Kingdom, 2014

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

London, United Kingdom, 2012

Wigan Literary Festival (12 April 2012)

Wigan, United Kingdom, 2012

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

Colchester, United Kingdom, 2012

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

Hedingham, United Kingdom, 2012

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

Aldeburgh, United Kingdom, 2012

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

Colchester, United Kingdom, 2011

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

Colchester, United Kingdom, 2011

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

Halstead, United Kingdom, 2011

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

Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, 2010

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

Colchester, United Kingdom, 2010

On J. A. Bakers The Peregrine (18 March 2009), Halstead Library, Halstead, Essex.

Halstead, United Kingdom, 2009

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


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

Leeds, United Kingdom, 2008

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

Colchester, United Kingdom, 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

Nottingham, United Kingdom, 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

Nottingham, United Kingdom, 2006

Leading a series of writing workshop events at this inaugural Radical Writing Retreat based at the Othona Centre at Bradwell On Sea

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Contemporary Texts and Contexts (LT109)

  • The Writer's Toolkit (LT191)

  • Creative Non-Fiction (LT245)

  • Climate Emergency: Narrating the Environment and Writing the Wild (LT269)

  • Placement Year (LT702)

  • The Humanities Graduate: Future Pathways (LT705)

  • Independent Creative Writing Project (LT832)

  • Dissertation Preparation: Postgraduate Research and Writing Skills (LT901)

  • The New Nature Writing (LT904)

  • Memory Maps: Practices in Psychogeography (LT909)

  • Wild Writing Work-Based Placement (LT975)

  • Dissertation (LT981)

  • Dissertation: MA Film Studies (LT983)

  • Dissertation - Wild Writing (LT988)

Previous supervision

Melissa Jane Gilmour Shales
Melissa Jane Gilmour Shales
Thesis title: Steel Safari: Travel Writing and Critical Study
Degree subject: Creative Writing
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 9/11/2021
Laurel Eberle
Laurel Eberle
Thesis title: A Real Poppy Show: Tales of Madness, Resistance, and Community in the British Virgin Islands
Degree subject: Creative Writing
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 14/5/2021


Books (5)

Canton, J., (2023). Grounded A Journey into the Landscapes of Our Ancestors. Canongate Books. 1838855882. 9781838855888

Canton, J., (2020). The Oak Papers. Canongate Books. 1838851526. 9781838851521

Canton, J., (2017). Ancient Wonderings: Travels in Prehistoric Britain. Harper Collins. 9780008175207

Canton, J., (2014). From Cairo to Baghdad British Travellers in Arabia. I.B.Tauris. 0857735713. 9780857735713

Canton, J., (2013). Out of Essex Re-Imagining a Literary Landscape. Andrews UK Limited. 1908493860. 9781908493866

Book chapters (1)

Canton, J., (2016). 'Throwing Off the European': Marmaduke Pickthall's Travels in Arabia 1894-96. In: Marmaduke Pickthall Islam and the Modern World. Editors: Nash, G., . Brill. 216- 230. 9789004327580

Other (1)

Canton, JR., (2016).Review of The Moth Snowstorm. The Conversation

+44 (0) 1206 872446


5NW.4.4, Colchester Campus