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BA, DipEd, MA, PhD (Monash) Web
Tel+64 3 479 7724
Office 1S1
First Floor
Arts Building
Albany Street

Mail English and Linguistics
University of Otago
PO Box 56
Dunedin 9054
New Zealand


  • Samuel Johnson and James Boswell
  • C. S. Lewis and the Inklings
  • Composition


  • ENGL 120 Creative Writing: How to Captivate and Persuade
  • ENGL 223 Fantasy and the Imagination
  • ENGL 227 Essay and Feature Writing
  • ENGL 323 Fantasy and the Imagination (Advanced)
  • ENGL 327 Creative Nonfiction
  • ENGL 337 Creative Writing: Travel Narratives
  • ENGL 476 A Topic in Eighteenth-century Literature: "Grub Street"

Research and supervision

My main area of writing and research is the eighteenth-century literary titan, Samuel Johnson, and his friend and biographer, James Boswell. My edition – the first ever – of a selection of Boswell's journalistic writings was published in June 2014 by Yale University Press. My fourth-year “Grub Street” paper explores some of these interests, and I would welcome the chance to supervise honours and postgraduate work on these subjects.

I have an abiding interest in the twentieth-century Oxford-based literary group, the Inklings, particularly C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. These two writers are best known respectively for the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, and I am interested in “golden-age” fantasy generally. In 2011 and 2012, my accounts of my discoveries concerning Lewis (an unreported interview for television) and Tolkien (the illustrations for The Lord of the Rings that he almost approved for publication) were featured in the Times Literary Supplement.

I am interested in the ongoing transformations of writing and media, and the neglected place of non-canonical genres, particularly the essay, in the history of reading. The essay is the focus of my popular undergraduate papers in writing.

The four authors who are my main research subjects were all in their own times writers for a popular readership, and still enjoy a considerable non-academic following. I consider myself a professional apologist for literate culture, and seek opportunities to address audiences outside scholarly institutions and publications. I have written for newspapers and magazines, and spoken on radio and television, in Australia and New Zealand.

The exceptionally curious may wish to see my entire CV.



Facts and Inventions: Selections from the Journalism of James Boswell, ed. Paul Tankard (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014).

  • "…We have within this book's ambit a convenient and well-annotated archive that will be useful to social historians, to students of Boswell and Johnson, and perhaps, as Tankard speculatively hopes, to the common reader. … Facts and Inventions constitutes a major contribution to Boswellian studies. …. The rich menu of materials ultimately coalesce into a rich ragout that should satisfy the tastes of any and all students of the period.” – Anthony W. Lee, The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer (March 2015).
  • "immediately-indispensible … Tankard does a readably erudite job keeping his readers up to speed on the dozens of squibs and scenes and scandals Boswell covers in these pages … all lovingly contextualized (there are virtuoso stretches where Tankard is essentially providing a portrait of the press of an entire era) and notated ... an excellent sampling of the writing that meant the most to Boswell on a day-to-day basis." - Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly

The Official Tolkien Calendar, 2015, illustrated by Mary Fairburn, with text by Paul Tankard (London, HarperCollins, 2014).

Samuel Johnson's "Designs": A facsimile of the Manuscript, with a New Transcription and an Introductory Essay (New York: The Johnsonians, 2008).

Chapters and refereed articles

This Millennium

“Samuel Johnson,” Blackwell Encyclopaedia of British Literature, 1660-1789, ed. Gary Day and Jack Lynch (Oxford: Wiley /Blackwell, forthcoming 2014). 5000 words.

"Boswell, George Steevens, and the Johnsonian Biography Wars," The Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual, 22 (2012), 73-95.

  • "Paul Tankard's detailed archival work on the squabbles among Johnson's early biographers in the press extend[s] the boundaries of knowledge on Johnson himself." Jack Lynch (2012)
  • “Paul Tankard offers some useful information on the background to the publication of anecdotes and other biographical material following Johnson's death in 1784.” Jonathan Lamb, SEL 53:3 (Summer 2013).

"A Vision of Middle-earth: Mary Fairburn - Tolkien Illustrator" ["Commentary" column], Times Literary Supplement, no. 5711 (14 Sept. 2012), 1, 14-15.

“ 'A Very Agreable Way of Thinking': Devotion and Doctrine in Boswell's Religion,” Theology and Literature in the Age of Johnson: Resisting Secularism, ed. Melvyn New and Gerard Reedy, S.J. (Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 2012), 237-54.

"Johnson and Browne on Living Rich," Notes and Queries, N.S. 58:3 (3 Sept., 2011), 422-23.

"Johnson and the Essay," Samuel Johnson in Context, ed. Jack Lynch (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012), 91-99.

“C. S. Lewis's Brush with Television,” The Journal of Inklings Studies, 1: 1 (March, 2011), 5-21; accompanied by “C. S. Lewis, interviewed by Wayland Young, 19 January 1962,” 23-31. A shorter version was published as “Forbidden Art: C. S. Lewis's Brush with Television” [“Commentary” column], the Times Literary Supplement, no. 5632 (11 March 2011), 13-15.

"Reference Point: Samuel Johnson and the Encyclopaedias: The David Fleeman Memorial Lecture, 2007," Eighteenth-Century Life, 33:3 (2009), 37-64.

"Johnson and the Walkable City," Eighteenth-Century Life, 32:1 (Winter 2008), 1-22.

  • "[A] thoughtful account of Johnson and the metropolis and the limits of individual independence." Eliza O'Brien, YWES (2010).

"Didactic Pleasures: Learning in Lewis's Narnia," for SEVEN: An Anglo-American Literary Journal, 24 (2007), 65-86.

"The Lion, the Witch and the Multiplex," Fantasy Fiction into Film: Essays, ed. Leslie Stratyner and James R. Keller (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 2007), 80-92.

“Reading Lists,” Prose Studies, 28: 3 (December, 2006), 337-60.

  • "[A] genuine contribution to the history of reading as a discipline." Reading Experience Database (2010).

“Samuel Johnson's History of Memory,” Studies in Philology, 102: 1 (Winter, 2005), 110-42.

“The 'Great Cham' and the 'English Aristophanes': Samuel Johnson, Samuel Foote, and 'Harmless Pleasure',” The Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual, 15 (2004), 83-96.

“Contexts for Johnson's Dictionary,” Genre, 35:2 (Summer, 2002), 253-82.

“Vive les Paratexts: A Review Essay,” of Gerard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (1997), Kevin Jackson, Invisible Forms: A Guide to Literary Curiosities (2000), and Anthony Rota, Apart from the Text (1998), The Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin, 26: 3 & 4 (2002), 195-219.

“'That Great Literary Projector': Samuel Johnson's Designs, or Projected Works,” The Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual, 13 (2002), 103-180.

  • "[An] illuminating discussion" Greg Clingham, Textual Studies and the Enlarged Eighteenth Century: Precision As Profusion (2012).
  • "[A]n impressive and revealing biographical survey" Gavin Budge, YWES (2004)
  • "[S]plendid." Alvaro Ribiero, S.J., The Age of Johnson, (2005), 365.

“Coasts, Interiors, Islands: Elizabeth Bishop's Poetics of Place,” The Critical Review, 41 (2001), 66-77.

Previous Millennia

“A Clergyman's Reading: Books Recommended by Samuel Johnson,” The Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual, 11 (2000), 125-43.

  • "This is a useful work of recovery." Min Wild, RES (2004).

“Free Verse and Traditional Form in Eliot, Lawrence and Hope,” AUMLA: Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association, 93 (May 2000), 37-50.

“The Rambler's Second Audience: Johnson and the Paratextual 'Part of Literature',” the Bulletin of the Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand, 24: 4 (Fourth Quarter 2000), 239-56.

“A Petty Writer: Johnson and the Rambler Pamphlets,” The Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual, 10 (1999), 67-87.

“Pockets of Wisdom, Samples of Text: Recent Revivals of the Very Small Book,” Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin, 21: 4 (Fourth Quarter, 1997), 226-44.

“An Empty Gesture: John Ashbery's Flow Chart,” Meridian, 16: 1 (May, 1997), 33-46.

“Wilson's 'Lewis' and Wilson's Wilson: A Meditation on Biography and Misreading,” Journal of Myth, Fantasy and Romanticism, 2: 2 (Spring, September, 1993), 29-33.

Academic Reviewing

I have written by invitation eighteen reviews of scholarly titles for academic journals.

Non-academic Writing

I believe it is important for scholars – and particularly for me, as a teacher of writing – to write for non-specialist audiences; so I continue to write reviews and other articles for publication in The Age (Melbourne), The Australian, Eureka Street, Quadrant, The Southern Johnsonian and (recently) The Otago Daily Times.

Talks and Broadcasts

Those who have too much time on their hands may wish to see and hear me in the following:

Samuel Johnson Exhibition opening: talk at the Dunedin Public Library

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, talk on ABC (Australia) Radio National, "Occam's Razor"

Tolkien's Lost Illustrations: interview on NZ National Radio, "Afternoons with Jim Mora"

Literary Detective: interview in The University of Otago Magazine

"Turning 300: A celebration of Samuel Johnson -- readings from his Poetry and Prose" by Dr. Paul Tankard and Dr. Ken Smith (University of Bradford), 10 Sept. 2009. Note, this link requires access to iTunes.

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