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Personal profile

Biography

I grew up in London and studied literature at UCL before doing a PhD at the London Consortium (Birkbeck College). I spent a number of years teaching in a variety of insitutions including UCL, Birkbeck, the Open University, Goldsmiths College, Central St Martins and Camberwell College of Arts. I have always had quite broad interests and enjoy teaching and researching across different historical periods and engaging with different disciplines. But my core area of interest in in twentieth-century British literature, particularly in relation to its political contexts. 

I have worked on the journal Critical Quarterly since 2010. I was deputy editor from 2015-2020, and senior deputy editor from 2020. I was elected to serve on the AHRC Peer Review College from 2020. I was also elected to serve on the executive committee of the British Association for Modernist Studies, and as its treasurer, for the period 2020-22. 

External Activities

  • Senior Deputy Editor of Critical Quarterly (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/14678705)
  • Member of the AHRC Peer Review College, 2020-2023
  • Treasurer, British Association of Modernist Studies (http://www.bams.ac.uk/)
  • Advisory Board, British Library ‘Dicovering Literature' project (http://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians)
  • Member of the Modernist Studies Association (http://msa.press.jhu.edu/)
  • Co-director (with Rebecca Beasley) of the Anglo-Russian Research Network (http://anglorussiannetwork.wordpress.com/), 2011-2019

Key Research Interests and Expertise

I have broad interests in the literature, politics and culture of the twentieth century.

I am embarking on a new project which investigates the phenomenon of collective speech--speaking in unison--in a broad historical perspective. It situates modern literature's fascination with collective speech in relation to notions of the chorus that go back to Ancient Greece, as well as the liturgical practices of the Christian church, and anthropological ideas about chanting that associated it with (racialised) primitive cultures. The resulting book will situate modern literary texts within a longue durée of choric vocalisation in order to investigate how choral speech has operated as a powerful fantasy of collectivity. I have published a number of articles in relation to this project including recent papers on Doris Lessing (in ELH), Katherine Burdekin (in Women: A Cultural Review) and on the political novel (in Modern Fiction Studies).

I am also currently collaborating on two edited volumes. I am co-editing, with my UEA colleague Rachel Potter, The British Novel of Ideas: George Eliot to Zadie Smith to be published in 2023 by Cambridge UP. With Benjamin Kohlmann (University of Regensburg) I am co-editing The People: Belonging, Exclusion and Democracy in the Cambridge Themes in British Literature and Culture series. 

I recently completed a project about the cultural resonances of the Russian Revolution in Britain. This project was supported by a three year Early Career Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust. The resulting monograph, Red Britain: the Russian Revolution in Mid-Century Culture (Oxford University Press, 2019), explores ways in which the impact of the Bolshevik Revolution inflected literary and cultural debates about topics as diverse as mathematics, religion, agriculture and law. The project draws together a wide selection of writers and intellectuals, including among others H.G. Wells, G.K. Chesterton, G.B. Shaw, Dorothy Richardson, the Woolfs, Koestler, Orwell and Doris Lessing. I have published some articles and chapters in connection with this project, listed in my publications section.

At the heart of this project was a reconsideration of the politicised literature of the 1930s, and I have collaborated with Benjamin Kohlmann (University of Regensburg) on two publications that seek to invigorate the debate about literature's entanglement with politics. A History of 1930s British Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2019), which I co-edited with Dr. Kohlmann, includes chapters by 26 contributors, and is a comprehensive account of the decade's literature that engages with debates around periodisation, the 'long 1930s' and 'late modernism'. We also co-edited a special issue of Literature and History, 'Literatures of Anti-Communism' (2015), which attempted to theorise Anti-Communism as a literary-historical category. 

I also have an interest in cities and the built environment. My first book, Fictions of the City: Class, Culture and Mass Housing in London and Paris (Palgrave, 2009), examined literary and filmic representations of mass housing from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth. The book focussed on the ways in which seismic changes in urban dwelling patterns were registered in literature and film, from novels like Emile Zola’s L’Assommoir and George Orwell’s Coming Up for Air to films such as La Haine and Nil By Mouth. The book argued for a fundamental rethinking of the culture of the modern city, countering a widespread critical obsession with outdoor phenomena – streetwalking, windowshopping and flânerie – in order to focus on the changing realities of indoor inhabitation. I continue to be interested in literary representations of urban (and suburban) life, and am actively publishing in this area. I have also published book chapters on Julian Barnes’s Metroland and suburbia, on G.K. Chesterton and the city, and on Andrea Levy’s depictions of urban council housing.

I would be very interested to hear from potential doctoral students with interests in these areas.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Devlopment Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, London Consortium

Award Date: 1 Jan 2008

Master of Arts, University College London

Award Date: 1 Jan 2004

Bachelor of Arts, University College London

Award Date: 1 Jan 2003