Colleges, School and Institutes
I completed my undergraduate degree at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. After a period away from academia, I returned in 2004 for an MPhil in Criticism and Culture at Pembroke College, Cambridge, followed by a PhD in English Studies. I spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley as a Visiting Scholar in 2006-2007. Before joining Birmingham in 2013, I was the Junior Research Fellow in World Literatures of the 20th and 21st Centuries in English at Wolfson College, Oxford, and in January 2018 I was seconded to the University of Illinois at Chicago for two years as a Marie-Skłodowska Curie Global Fellow.
My first monograph, J. M. Coetzee and the Politics of Style (Cambridge University Press, 2014), which was shortlisted for the University English Book Prize 2015, traces the emergence and meaning of Coetzee’s spare, stark and sometimes lyrical prose, and situates his early and middle fictions in relation to works of South African, European and American predecessors and peers. I am co-editor, with Ben Etherington, of The Cambridge Companion to World Literature (2018), and editor of The Cambridge Companion to J.M. Coetzee (2019).
Since 2012 I have been involved in a larger collaborative research project, Crafts of World Literature, initiated by myself and Dr Ben Etherington (Western Sydney University, Australia). We have thus far staged three international conferences and colloquia (Crafts of World Literature, 2012; Poetic Craft and White Settler Colonialism, 2013; Craft Wars, 2014), and convened a panel at the MLA 2018 (Crafts of World Literature: Materials, Genres, Forms) and a stream of panels at ASAUK 2018 (African Literature: Communities, Collaborations, Crafts & Crossings). We have also produced special issues of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature (2014) and Wasafiri (2016).
My current research project, ‘Literary Communities and Literary Worlds’, is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (under Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 708030). Its first strand examines the careers of several authors, including Stefan Heym, Vladimir Nabokov, and Denise Levertov, who managed to gain entry to the mid-twentieth-century American literary community by re-shaping their practices in response to their new literary environments. Its second strand looks at another set of authors - Richard Wright, Guy Butler, Peter Abrahams, and Kamau Brathwaite - and considers their uses of West African aesthetic traditions.
Whereas the first strand is concerned with the notion of the 'literary field', the second raises questions about the nature and portability of 'literary material'. At its broadest, the project addresses the relationship between literary community, labour and belonging, and aims to offer new ways of describing the literary world, and new ways of researching and teaching world literature.
Willingness to take PhD students
I would be very happy to supervise dissertations on topics in postcolonial/ world literatures, especially those focused on anglophone novelists and poets from Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean. I would also be happy to supervise dissertations on British and American writers of mid- to late twentieth century, particularly if addressed from narratological and stylistic and/ or book historical perspectives.