Research


My first book Fictions of the City: Class, Culture and Mass Housing in London and Paris (Basingstoke: 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 have also written chapters and articles on Julian Barnes’s Metroland and the literary representation of suburbia, on G.K. Chesterton and the city, and on Andrea Levy’s depictions of urban council housing, all of which are published or in press (see publications). The literature and culture of suburbia, in particular, remain a strong interest.

I am currently writing a book, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, about British cultural responses to the Russian revolution, looking at novels, plays, poetry and journalism. The book will explore ways in which the impact of the Bolshevik Revolution went beyond the political sphere, and inflected literary and cultural debates about topics as diverse as mathematics, sex, religion, agriculture and law. The project draws together a wide selection of writers and intellectuals, both modernist and non-modernist, including among others H.G. Wells, G.K. Chesterton, G.B. Shaw, Dorothy Richardson, Rebecca West, Keynes, the Woolfs, Koestler, Spender and Orwell. I have published some articles in connection with this project, listed in my publications section.

I am also interested in the history and theory of the legislative and juridical constraints within which print and other mass media operate, and how writers and artists have interacted with these. Taking Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory as its starting point, the book after next will try to theorise the ‘structural coupling’ of the two autopoetic systems of law and literature. In doing so, it will engage with key writers who have concerned themselves with the licensing, censorship, and copyrighting of literature – and conversely with obscenity, piracy and bootlegging – including John Milton, Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence and Salman Rushdie. 

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