Professor Robert Macfarlane

Photo of Professor Robert Macfarlane

BA, Ph.D. (Cantab), MPhil (Oxon)

Official Fellow; Director of Studies in English
Professor of Literature and the Environmental Humanities


Robert Macfarlane took up his post as Fellow in English in 2002. He is presently Professor of Literature and the Environmental Humanities in the Faculty of English, and Director of Studies for Part II in English.

Teaching Interests

Professor Macfarlane teaches widely in the English Tripos, chiefly in relation to ideas of landscape, nature, people, place and environmentalism. At graduate level, he convenes an MPhil course entitled ‘Cultures of the Anthropocene’, and supervises MPhil dissertations on subjects including new materialism, eeriness, dwelling, cultures of nuclear and natural history, enchantment, apocalypse and radical landscape poetics. The subjects of his PhD students have included pollution, toxicity and 'persistent matter' in post-war British culture; the Scott/Terra Nova expedition 1910–1913; ‘hyperspace’ in American short fiction 1960–1980; and the British overseas travelogue 1900-1942.


Robert Macfarlane is Professor of Literature and the Environmental Humanities at the Faculty of English in Cambridge. He is well-known as a writer about nature, climate, landscape, people and place, and his books –– which include Underland (2019), a book-length prose-poem Ness (2018), Landmarks(2015), The Old Ways (2012) and Mountains of the Mind (2003) –– have been translated into more than thirty languages, won prizes around the world, and been widely adapted for music, film, television, radio and theatre.

He has also written operas, plays, and films including River (2022) and Mountain (2017), both narrated by Willem Dafoe. He has collaborated closely with artists including Olafur Eliasson and Stanley Donwood, and with the artist Jackie Morris he co-created the internationally bestselling books of nature-poetry and art, The Lost Words (2017) and The Lost Spells (2020). As a lyricist, he has written songs and albums with musicians including Cosmo Sheldrake, Karine Polwart and Johnny Flynn, with whom he has released two albums, Lost In The Cedar Wood (2021) and The Moon Also Rises (2023) and an EP, Six Signs (2022). In 2022, with the actor-director Simon McBurney he co-adapted Susan Cooper's classic fantasy novel The Dark Is Rising into a twelve-part BBC audio drama series.

He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College and of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2017 the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded him the EM Forster Prize for Literature, and in 2023 in Toronto he was awarded the inaugural Weston International Award for career achievement in non-fiction. His current book project, forthcoming in early 2025, is entitled Is a River Alive? and concerns the lives and deaths of rivers and the global Rights of Nature movement.