Prof Rachel Bowlby

Professor of Comparative Literature


Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Joined UCL
1st Oct 2004

Research summary

Much of my work looks at the diverse history and practices of consumer culture, most recently in Back to the Shops: The High Street in History and the Future (2022). Other shopping books are Just Looking (on novels about department stores) and Carried Away (on supermarkets).

Another field of interest is the history of stories of parenthood. A Child of One's Own (2013) is about how the previously static subject of parenthood—what normally happens to married couples— engendered new kinds of story and argument after it became, in the 20th century, a matter of 'choice': first negatively, through contraception, and then positively, through new reproductive technologies. The book discusses issues surrounding new family forms, and also looks back to 18th- and 19th-century writings about parenthood, to draw out patterns of thinking that bear on those of today.

I have written also on Greek tragedy and psychoanalysis (Freudian Mythologies: Greek Tragedy and Modern Identities); on Virginia Woolf (Feminist Destinations) and on feminist criticism more broadly (Still Crazy After All these Years: Women, Writing and Psychoanalysis). 

Other books bring together essays of literary and cultural criticism: Talking Walking (2018), Everyday Stories (2016), and Shopping with Freud (1991). In addition, I have translated a number of books of French philosophy, by writers including Jacques Derrida.

Teaching summary

On the MA Comparative Literature I teach a course on Consumer Culture in Literature


Yale University
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1983
University of Oxford
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 1979


My first degree, at Oxford, was in Latin and Greek Literature and in English; my PhD at Yale was in Comparative Literature.

I previously taught at the universities of Sussex, York, and Oxford. From 2004-14 I was Lord Northcliffe Professor of English Literature at UCL; presently I am Professor of Comparative Literature.