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. After completing his BA at Pembroke (1994-97), he spent two years studying at Magdalen College, Oxford, and a year teaching at a university in Beijing, before returning to Cambridge for his PhD. He is presently Professor of Literature and the Environmental Humanities in the Faculty of English.

Teaching Interests

Dr Macfarlane teaches widely in the English Tripos, chiefly in relation to ideas of landscape, nature, people, place and environmentalism. At Part II he runs a seminar course on Contemporary Writing in English, and he lectures on topics including the post-pastoral, travel writing, cultural environmentalism, climate change, and the contemporary novel. 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.


Dr Macfarlane is well-known as a writer. His prize-winning and bestselling books about landscape, nature, memory and travel include Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination (2003), The Wild Places (2007), The Old Ways (2012), Holloway (2013, with Stanley Donwood and Dan Richards), Landmarks (2015), The Lost Words (with the artist Jackie Morris, 2017) and – most recently – Underland: A Deep Time Journey (2019). His work has been translated into nearly twenty languages, won prizes around the world, and his books have been widely adapted for television, film, stage and radio, by the BBC among others. He collaborates with artists, film-makers, photographers and musicians. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2012, and has been awarded honorary doctorates by the universities of Aberdeen and Gloucestershire. In 2007 and 2013 he judged the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Dr Macfarlane’s essays and reviews also appear often in the Guardian, Archipelago, The New York Times and Granta, among other publications. In 2017 he was awarded the EM Forster Prize for Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.