I was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School, Aberdeen University and Peterhouse, Cambridge. I tutored at Peterhouse and Edinburgh and taught at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, before coming to Stirling in 1971.
I was General Editor of the Canongate Classics series since its foundation in 1987; Chair of Scottish Book Trust 1995-2000; a member of Booker Prize panel 2001. I was the founding Director of the Stirling Centre for Scottish Studies, a Member of AHRB panel for literature and SHEFC's Research Policy Advisory Committee, and a member of literature panel for the 2008 RAE. I became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1992.
I have given lectures at conferences and symposia throughout Scotland as well as at St Patrick's College, Dublin; Queen’s University, Belfast; the Cardiff Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory; the Scottish Studies Centre at Germersheim; the University of Lyon; the University of St Etienne; Groupement de recherches Études Écossaises, University Stendhal, Grenoble; the University of Silesia; the University of Debrecen; the British Council Belgrade; the University of Fribourg; the Universitaire Intelling Antwerpen; Université Victor Segalen, Brest; Université des Sciences Humaines de Strasbourg, Université Lumiere, École Normale Supérieure Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Lyon 2.
My research interests are in modern literature, especially Scottish literature and the application of Bakhtinian and postcolonial theory to questions of voice, language, place, class and gender as they relate to literary expression and constructions of cultural identity.
I am currently co-editor of The Journal of Stevenson Studies, published from Stirling. I have published over 70 chapters, essays and articles on modern and nineteenth century Scottish literature.
My wider interests are with modern poetry in general, especially European, British and American modernism in literature and the arts, and I have taught several Creative Writing modules here at Stirling. As keen cyclists my colleague Martin Gray and I wrote The Penguin Book of the Bicycle (1978).
The main collections of my own poetry are True History on the Walls (1977) and Into the Blue Wavelengths (2004), my work is also published in numerous periodicals and over 20 anthologies. Work in progress: critical and theoretical study of aspects of cultural identity, language and expression in modern Scottish literature; R. L. Stevenson as a proto-modernist; modernism and the modern Scottish literarary renaissance.