Wednesday, November 4, 2009

J.G. Ballard, Intertextuality and Architectural Modernism

I'm giving a lecture to the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research at Cardiff University on 8th Decmber 2009. It's called 'J.G. Ballard, Intertextuality and Architectural Modernism'. Details (and the rest of their programme of speakers) can be found here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Country Formerly Known as Great Britain

Jack dusts off old things with the fascinated concentration of an archaeologist at a dig. Objects that speaks to his sense of a more wholesome past - bus conductors, British cherries eaten from a paper bag, a model of the Titanic made out of a coal-based resin, or his father's bookcase, which evokes an era of working-class autodidacticism - are the keys that link his experiences and those of his family to wider historical developments.

The big story here is the decline of Britian as an industrial force, and the effects of this on the working class. Digging through his father's old coal shed (left untouched for twenty years by his widow, Jack's mother) a series of scarcely identifiable tools and objects present themselves (dolly tubs: "a wooden appliance with two arms, and legs or feet, used to stir clothes in a tub"). These remnants of the "departed culture of coal" are viewed with ambivalence - they hark back to a simpler time of industrial prosperity, but Jack is not insensible to the hardships of those - like his mother - whose gruelling task it was to operate the dolly tubs.
My review of Ian Jack's book The Country Formerly Known as Great Britain is now up on the New Statesman website. The full text is online here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where the Other Half Lives

My review of Sarah Glynn's new book is up on the New Statesman's website here.

"In some respects, it's the most important statistic in modern Britain. In 1914, ten per cent of Britain's housing stock was owner-occupied: the figure now is around 72 per cent. During a century in which it fought two world wars, dismantled an empire and built a welfare state, Britain quietly transformed itself from a nation of tenants into a nation where the majority are homeowners. The massive impact that this has had on the social landscape of the country is often neglected, and yet it is key to understanding contemporary politics. Thatcher's sale of council houses under the right-to-buy scheme finally tilted the electoral balance in favour of the homeowner, and the imperative to pander to the interests of an owner-occupying 'middle England' that is inherently conservative has largely defined the policy direction of New Labour. Seamlessly, the property-owning democracy of the Thatcher years segued into Blair's stakeholder society. Homeownership has become a precondition of citizenship, while those without property are increasingly disenfranchised."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fictions of the City Officially Released

Fictions of the City (Palgrave, 2009) is officially released today and is available in shops and to order online direct from Palgrave or via Amazon (as well as all the other usual outlets).

Many studies of fictions of city life take the flaneur as the characteristic metropolitan type and streets and plazas as definitive urban spaces. Looking at novels and films set in London and Paris from "L'Assommoir" to "Nil By Mouth", this book shows that mass housing is equally central to images of the modern city.

Please contact me for further details.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Utopian Spaces of British Literature and Culture, 1890-1945

I will be delivering a paper called 'H.G. Wells and the Garden City Utopia' at this conference, to be held in the English Faculty at Oxford University on 18th September 2009. Full details of the conference are here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Problems with Sartre

My review of Alain Badiou's Pocket Pantheon appears in this week's New Statesman.

"The book was originally to be called Funeral Orations; it mourns the passing of not only an extraordinary group of individuals, but a style of thought. Badiou argues that the uncompromising quest for truth has been replaced in our times by the drear tenets of a "vegetable-based natural medicine", a lifestyle philosophy that advises us to "keep fit and be efficient, but stay cool"."

You can read the whole review online here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ties That Bound

A review of The Future of Community published in the Times Literary Supplement, 31 July 2009.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Russia in Britain, 1880-1940: Reception, Translation and the Modernist Cultural Agenda

I'm giving a paper called 'Russia and the British Intellectuals: The Significance of the Stalin-Wells Talk' at this conference, to be held at the institute of English Studies on 25-26 June 2009. Full details can be found here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Phobia: Constructing the Phenomenology of Chronic Fear, 1789 to the Present

An international conference hosted by the Glamorgan Research Centre for Literature, Arts and Science

Friday 8 – Saturday 9 May, 2009

The ATRiuM Campus, Cardiff

I'm giving a paper called 'Anarchophobia: The Structure of GK Chesterton's Conservatism' at this conference, which is all about phobias. Full details of the conference are here, and the conference programme is here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fictions of the City

It's not coming out until September, but information about Fictions of the City is now available here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Realism, Modernism and the General: Beckett, Lukács, Adorno

My essay on Beckett, Lukács and Adorno appears in the latest issue of Static, which is on the theme of 'the general'. Here's the gist:

This paper starts from the proposition that theories of realism have tended to hinge in some sense on the generalizability of the text. In the work of the Marxist critic Georg Lukács, realist texts were valued for the facility that they offered to move from an identification with the specific experiences of their characters to a more general understanding of the social and economic conditions which produce those experiences. This paper makes a contrast between this position and the purportedly anti-realist theories of Theodor Adorno, using the two theorists' polarised reactions to Beckett's Trilogy (and modernism itself) to interrogate the role of generalizability in their aesthetics. In this regard, they are both heritors of a problematic concept of the 'general will' that can be traced back through Marx to Hegel and Rousseau. By focussing on the Trilogy itself, this paper makes the argument that its relation to the general should not be sought in the way that it reflects (Lukács) or mediates (Adorno) general social and political realities. The Trilogy's foregrounding of the materiality of thought and experience and its exploration of immanence suggest that the general is to be found in humankind's shared experience of the material universe.

The full text is available here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fictions of the City Wordcloud

My book Fictions of the City: Class, Culture and Mass Housing in London and Paris is being published by Palgrave Macmillan in the autumn. Here's a wordcloud (from

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Film Rebuffs

A review of D.M. Thomas, Bleak Hotel: The Hollywood Saga of the White Hotel, published in the TLS, 30/01/2009.

Immortal Pages

A review of Jeff Gomez, Print Is Dead, published in the TLS last year.

Thursday, January 15, 2009



Fictions of the City: Class, Culture and Mass Housing in London and Paris. Book based on doctoral thesis in press and forthcoming from Palgrave Macmillan in September 2009

Chapters in Edited Volumes

• ‘The Flâneur and the Freeholder: Paris and the London Suburbs in Julian Barnes's Metroland’, in Julian Barnes: Contemporaary Critical Perspectives, Groes, S. and S. Matthews (eds.) London and New York; Continuum, forthcoming in 2010

• ‘Advertising’ and ‘Copyright’ in This Is Not A Book About Gavin Turk, Rachel Newsome (ed.). Historical thematic essays in this book, forthcoming in 2010

• ‘Worlds Made of Concrete and Celluloid: The London Council Estate in Nil By Mouth and Wonderland’ in Ways of Worldmanking: Narratives, Archives and Media, Birgit Neumann & Ansgar Nünning (eds.), forthcoming from De Gruyter in 2010

Journal Articles

• ‘Realism, Modernism and the General: Beckett, Lukács, Adorno’ in Static ( (Issue 8, Spring 2009)

• ‘‘Monumental Alabaster’: Sculpture in The Winter’s Tale and When We Dead Awaken’ in Static ( (Issue 5, Summer 2007)

Dictionary Entries

• Over 100 entries for the Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism (London: British Library, 2008) on periodicals, publishers, journalists and themes

Conference Papers

• ‘H.G. Wells and the Garden City Utopia’. Given at Utopian Spaces of British Literature and Culture, 1890-1945 at Oxford University, English Faculty, 18th September 2009

• ‘Russia and the British Intellectuals: The Significance of the Stalin-Wells Talk’. Given at Russia in Britain, 1880-1940: Reception, Translation and the Modernist Cultural Agenda at the Institute for English Studies, University of London, 25th & 26th June 2009

• ‘Anarchophobia: The Structure of G.K. Chesterton’s Conservatism’. Given at PHOBIA: Constructing the Phenomenology of Chronic Fear, 1789 to the Present at the Glamorgan Research Centre for Literature, Arts and Science, 8th & 9th May 2009

• ‘‘H.G. Wells and the New Science of Town Planning’. Given at the H.G. Wells Society Annual Conference, H.G. Wells, Science and Philosophy at Imperial College / Conway Hall, London, 28th & 29th September 2007

• ‘Paris: Walled City’. Given at the 2007 Critical Legal Conference, Walls at Birkbeck College, London, 14th–16th September 2007

• ‘Worlds Made of Concrete and Celluloid: The London Council Estate in Nil By Mouth and Wonderland’. Given at the European Summer School in Cultural Studies, Ways of Worldmaking: Narratives, Archives and Media, Geißen & Heidelberg, 30th July – 4th August 2007

• ‘Modernism and Utopia in the Architecture of J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise’. Given at Heaven and Earth: A Multidisciplinary Conference at Tate Modern, London, 27th January 2005

Selected Reviews

• ‘Problems With Sartre’, review of Alain Badiou, Pocket Pantheon: Figures of Postwar Philosophy in New Statesman, 6th August 2009

• ‘Ties that Bound’, in-depth review of Dave Clements, Alastair Donald, Martin Earnshaw and Austin Williams (eds.) The Future of Community: Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated in Times Literary Supplement, 31st July 2009

• ‘Film Rebuffs’, review of D.M. Thomas, Bleak Hotel: The Hollywood Saga of the White Hotel in Times Literary Supplement, 28th January 2009

• ‘Immortal Pages’, review of Jeff Gomez, Print is Dead in Times Literary Supplement, 7th March 2008

• ‘Heart of Darkness’, review of Slavoj Zizek, Violence in New Statesman, 31st January 2008

Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism

Working as a post-doctoral researcher for the Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism, I wrote over 100 entries on a diverse range of topics. There are some thematic articles (e.g. on the Printing Press, Distribution, and Typewriting), some biographical ones (on the journalism of Hazlitt and Coleridge as well as less celebrated hacks), and some about various journals and newspapers. The book, edited by Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor, is out now

Introducing Le Corbusier

Victoria and Albert Museum

Saturday 14 March
Seminar Room 1, Sackler Centre

Review the main tenets of Le Corbusier’s thinking and assess his significant impact with architectural historians Barry Curtis, Matthew Taunton and Alan Powers. Arguably the most important and influential architect of the 20th century, Le Corbusier was a pioneer of modernist design. He championed the use of industrial materials and revolutionised approaches to urban planning. This event is part of the Le Corbusier centenary and coincides with the V&A’s display, The Olympic Stadium Project – Le Corbusier and Baghdad.

£20, £15
Book online or call +44 (0)20 7942 2211

Resonance FM: The Thread

I appeared on the London Consortium's discussion show 'The Thread' on Resonance FM on Tuesday, discussing IKEA and airports as examples of 'non-places' (and also a bit of Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall) with Richard Martin and Mitha Budhyarto, who's writing her PhD on the topic. I was hoping to link to a podcast, but it doesn't seem to be up... I'll update if and when this becomes available. The show (with a variety of topics and guests) is on for the next four Tuesdays at 11pm anyway, so listen in!

New Statesman

I have been writing occasional reviews and columns for the New Statesman for a while. The full text of all my articles can be read here