The department has a vibrant and diverse body of scholars working on contemporary literature, and is home to one of the largest concentration of experts in this field of all University of London colleges.
Our range of research interests makes the department one of the most dynamic places in the country to study late-twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature.
The key strands characterising our work on contemporary literary culture are:
Path-breaking work continues to be conducted on the cultural history of Israel and Palestine (Jacqueline Rose), the afterlives of the First World War in contemporary fiction (Michèle Barrett), writing of the Second World War (Clair Wills), and on post-Apartheid culture (Andrew van der Vlies).
Colleagues studying postcolonial contexts include Bill Schwarz, whose research examines the evolution of English fiction in wake of Empire. Rachael Gilmour works on the politics of language in contemporary experimental black British and British-Asian writing. Andrew van der Vlies is a specialist in contemporary literatures and print cultures in South Africa.
Expertise in recent Anglophone fiction includes work on a wide range of key British figures for the Vintage Living Texts series (Margaret Reynolds), studies concerned with the geographies of the postwar novel and with the politics of form in contemporary British and American fiction (David James), and major interventions in the narratology of postmodernism and the philosophy of time (Mark Currie).
The wealth of interests in this field embrace contemporary American, British, and Irish poetry (Clair Wills), the interface between poetics, science, and technology (Katy Price), and the political implications of poetic experiment for notions of democratic art (Peter Howarth). Informed by her own practice as a poet, Andrea Brady also writes on British and American poets within the late modernist tradition, as well as on critical theory and Marxist aesthetics, and is particularly engaged with the small-press economy (as both critic and publisher).
The Department is home to the ‘Archive of the Now’, one of the most important resources for British poetry on the Internet. The Archive consists of both print-based and digital work, but its main holdings are downloadable recordings of hundreds of poets commissioned and produced by Queen Mary, University of London. The Archive is an outstanding resource for the study of contemporary performance, poetry, and digital environments.
Collaborations and public understanding of the humanities
Since 1995, Andrea Brady has been co-publisher of the small press Barque. She has supervised collaborative doctoral project with the Sound Archive at the British Library, and organised and performed at numerous readings, festivals, and other events aimed at introducing poetry to a wider public. Katy Price has participated in creative collaborations with artists and promoted the close relationship between science and the literary imagination at science festivals and in museums.
These activities exemplify the department’s outstanding contribution to public understanding of contemporary literature. Staff make frequent media and public appearances and contribute to newspapers and magazines. A regular contributor to The London Review of Books and highly-regarded media commentator, Jacqueline Rose is co-founder of Independent Jewish Voices (launched in 2007), a speak-out network established to generate debate and to disrupt the apparent consensus amongst British Jewry in relation to the Middle Eastern Conflict.
David James is founding co-editor with Matthew Hart (Columbia University) and Rebecca Walkowitz (Rutgers University) of the book series Literature Now at Columbia University Press. David also serves on the Board of Editorial Consultants at Contemporary Literature. Andrew van der Vlies is a co-editor with Rita Barnard (University of Pennsylvania) of the Routledge journal Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies. Shahidha Bari is a member of the editorial board of New Formations. Rachael Gilmour serves on the Advisory Board of Wasafiri.
Colleagues’ interests in contemporary culture also richly inform the kinds of options available on our thriving graduate programme in this field. These include Nadia Valman’s ‘Writing the East End’, Bill Schwarz’s ‘Imagining the Modern Caribbean’, and Jacqueline Rose’s ‘Psychoanalysis and Modern Culture’.