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Professor Patrick Flanery


Professor of Creative Writing



I was born in California and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. After finishing my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television Production at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, I worked as a freelance script reader for Sony Pictures Entertainment, and subsequently as a book scout for a production company and talent management agency.

In 2001, I moved to the U.K., where I completed my doctorate at the University of Oxford on the publishing and adaptation histories of Evelyn Waugh’s novels, and also began working on South African literature and film. From 2005 to 2009 I taught modern and contemporary literature and literary theory as an adjunct at the University of Sheffield, during which time I was also writing my first novel, Absolution (2012). I have since published two further novels, Fallen Land (2013) and I Am No One (2016).

Translations of my novels have appeared or are forthcoming in a dozen languages; Absolution won the Spear’s/Laurent Perrier Best First Book Award in 2012, and was shortlisted for a number of other prizes, including the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize and the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize. Other creative and critical work has been published in Zoetrope: All Story, Granta, Newsweek, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Spectator, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Daily Telegraph. I have appeared at literary festivals around the U.K., as well as in France, Italy, Norway, South Africa, and the U.S.A.

I have lived in London with my husband since 2010. Before coming to teach at Queen Mary, I was Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Reading from 2014 to 2017.

Undergraduate Teaching

In the 2017-18 academic year, I teach on:

  • ESH4100: Creative Writing 1


Research Interests:

  • The novel
  • The short story
  • The screenplay
  • Experimental writing
  • Realisms
  • Surveillance and paranoia
  • Dystopia
  • Dissent
  • Transnationalism, migration, and exile
  • Queer theories, affects, and subjectivities
  • North American, British, South African, and other global Anglophone literatures from the 19th Century to the present
  • Literature in translation (particularly from French, Russian, and Spanish)
  • Film (particularly independent North American film from the 1970s to the present, film noir, and experimental film)
  • Television (particularly contemporary limited series)

Recent and On-Going Research

My three published novels are united by concerns with selfhood, surveillance, memory, and migration. Absolution (2012) follows a South African expatriate who returns to Cape Town to write the biography of a celebrated novelist. Told in four voices, the book foregrounds the ethics of representation and the subjectivity of recounting traumatic histories. In a long review in the New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch called me ‘an exceptionally gifted and intelligent novelist.’ In 2015 and 2016, Absolution was on the IEB syllabus for South African secondary schools; in support of this, I went on two schools tours, speaking to 7,500+ students and teachers.

Fallen Land (2013) is in conversation with traditions of American writing about the uncanny, the gothic, and suburbia. For its exploration of racism and meditations on climate change, private prisons, and surveillance, Fallen Land was described by critics as a state-of-the-nation novel about contemporary America. In the Guardian, John Burnside called it ‘a superb portrayal of how ordinary men can veer into madness’ and a novel that ‘takes up the challenge of what DeLillo calls “the American mystery”,’ exploring ‘the dark shadows cast by history and old lies.’

My third novel, I Am No One (2016), is narrated by a professor of modern German history who returns to New York after a decade at Oxford; convinced he is being watched, he is forced to reassess his relationship with an exiled Egyptian doctoral student. Teddy Wayne called it ‘a novel of Pynchonesque paranoid ideas, wrapped in psychologically acute Jamesian prose, delivered by a gripping story worthy of Graham Greene.’ Hanya Yanagihara wrote that it announces me as ‘a writer with an uncanny sense of the anxieties and fears that define the modern condition’. Reviewing it in the Guardian, A.S. Byatt said:

Flanery is a master of puzzling, alarming and even terrifying storytelling. . . .One of the pleasures of reading [him] is the tussle between ways of understanding the shapes of stories and language. . . . [H]e writes realist novels which show their awareness that realism is a self-conscious form like others. Reviewers have described his novels as thrillers, which is never quite right . . . there are parts of the story that stand out as thrilling, next to other parts that are meditative, and others that are psychologically baffling. Readers are constantly seeking to work out what sort of writing they are reading.

I am currently finishing work on my fourth book, which follows a group of characters affected by McCarthyism in 1950s Los Angeles.



  • I Am No One. New York: Tim Duggan Books/Crown/Penguin Random House, 2016; London: Atlantic Books, 2016. Translations published or forthcoming in China, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
  • Fallen Land. New York: Riverhead Books, 2013; London: Atlantic Books, 2013. Translations published or forthcoming in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Spain.
  • Absolution. New York: Riverhead Books, 2012; London: Atlantic Books, 2012; Toronto: Knopf, 2012. Translations published or forthcoming in Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, and Spain.


Short Fiction

  • ‘Bearings’, in Kate Gottgens: paintings 2015-2017, Cape Town: SMAC, 2017. [Forthcoming. Volume title and publication details to be confirmed.]
  • ‘Heretics’, Zoetrope: All Story2, Summer 2017: 12a-23b.
  • ‘Interior: Monkeyboy’, Granta 136: Legacies of Love, July 2016: 69-93.



Links at

  • Reflection, Understanding, and Empathy: A Conversation between Carol-Ann Davids and Patrick Flanery, Safundi3, July 2017: 291-301.
  • Interview by Christopher Holmes, Contemporary Literature3, September 2013: 427-58.
  • Interview by Jonathan Derbyshire, The New Statesman, 14 June 2013.
  • ‘How I Write’, interview by Noah Charney, The Daily Beast, 1 May 2013.
  • Interview by Malcolm Forbes, The Millions, 4 May 2012.


Essays & Journalism

Links at

  • ‘Not Gordimer,’ Hazlitt, July 2014.
  • ‘I am in a civil partnership, but it is no substitute for marriage,’ Guardian, 5 June 2013.
  • ‘Banished by Love’, Los Angeles Times, 26 March 2013.


Non-academic Reviews

Links at

  • Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett, Spectator. June 2016.
  • Moonstone by Sjón, Times Literary Supplement (TLS). June 2016.
  • Trencherman by Eben Venter, Guardian. March 2016.
  • Slade House by David Mitchell, Spectator. October 2015.
  • Jimfish by Christopher Hope, Spectator. May 2015.
  • ‘A Literary Critic Explores if Emigrants Ever Truly Belong’. The Nearest Thing to Life by James Wood, Newsweek. April 2015.
  • Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish, Guardian. April 2015.
  • Bones by Paul Theroux, Guardian. 9 October 2014.
  • California by Edan Lepucki, TLS. 9 October 2014.
  • How to be both by Ali Smith, Telegraph. 30 August 2014.
  • Outlaws by Javier Cercas, Guardian. 21 June 2014.
  • ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’. The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, Telegraph, 31 May 2014.
  • ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. Double Negative by Ivan Vladislavić, Guardian, 9 November 2013.
  • The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee, Washington Post, September 2013.
  • Philida by André Brink. Telegraph, 14 August 2012.
  • ‘Distil their Souls.’ The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. TLS, 14 May 2010.
  • ‘Two Cities.’ The One That Got Away by Zoë Wicomb. TLS, 9 October 2009.
  • ‘J.M. Coetzee’s autre-biography: One of the Tribe?’ Summertime by J.M. Coetzee. TLS, 11 September 2009.
  • ‘A theory of hands.’ The Pages by Murray Bail. TLS, 22 August 2008.
  • ‘Money from Buzz.’ The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer. TLS, 27 June 2008.
  • ‘The Dean family.’ A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz. TLS, 30 May 2008.
  • ‘The new South African novel.’ Agaat by Marlene van Niekerk. TLS, 7 December 2007.
  • ‘Voiceless views.’ Foreigners: Three English Lives by Caryl Phillips. TLS, 21 September 2007.
  • ‘How to get home.’ The Blue Door by André Brink. TLS, 24 August 2007.
  • ‘Star-crossed Cowboys.’ Wounded by Percival Everett. TLS, 2 March 2007.
  • ‘Headlong into Art.’ The Ghost of Memory by Wilson Harris. TLS, 14 December 2006.


Scholarly Contributions to Books

  • ‘Limber: The Flexibilities of Post-Nobel Coetzee.’ In Print, Text, & Book Cultures in South Africa. Ed. Andrew van der Vlies. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2012. pp. 208-24.
  • ‘The BBC Brideshead, 1956.’ In A Handful of Mischief. Ed. Donat Gallagher, Ann Pasternak Slater, John Wilson. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2011. pp. 220-31.
  • ‘Brideshead Re-Positioned: Re-Ma(r)king Text and Tone in Filmed Adaptation.’ In Waugh Without End: New Trends in Evelyn Waugh Studies. Ed. Carlos José Villar Flor and Robert Murray Davis. Bern: Peter Lang, 2005. pp. 193-210.


Scholarly Articles

  • In My Country’s Filmic Betrayals: Reification and the Ethics of Adapting Country of My Skull.’ Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies3, July 2010: 233-60.
  • ‘Readership, Authority, and Identity: Some Competing Texts of A Handful of Dust.’ Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America2, September 2009: 337-56.
  • ‘Annexing the Global, Globalizing the Local.’ Scrutiny21, 2008: 3-17. (With Andrew van der Vlies.)
  • ‘Re-Marking Coetzee and Costello: The [Textual] Lives of Animals.’ English Studies in Africa1, 2004: 61-84. (Special Issue: Histories of the Book in Southern Africa.)


Guest Editorship of Scholarly Journal

  • South African Cultural Texts and the Global Mediascape. Special issue of Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa1, 2008. (With Andrew van der Vlies.)
  • ‘What National Cinema? South African film culture and the transnational.’ On South African National Cinema by Jacqueline Maingard; Black & White In Colour: African History on Screen Vivian-Bickford Smith and Richard Mendelsohn, To Change Reels: Film and Film Culture in South Africa ed. Isabel Balseiro and Ntongela Masilela. Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies 10.2, April 2009: 239-53.


Review Essay


  • ‘What National Cinema? South African film culture and the transnational.’ On South African National Cinema by Jacqueline Maingard; Black & White In Colour: African History on Screen Vivian-Bickford Smith and Richard Mendelsohn, To Change Reels: Film and Film Culture in South Africa ed. Isabel Balseiro and Ntongela Masilela. Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies 10.2, April 2009: 239-53.

PhD Supervision

I would be happy to hear from potential doctoral students whose interests and proposals coincide with any of my research areas. I am currently supervising a student writing a magic realist novel about transnational Peruvian-British experience.

Public Engagement

Literary Festival Appearances & Public Readings


2017    LSE Space for Thought Festival. Revolution in the Mind: Reassessing the psychology of rebellion and obedience. Panel with Alex Haslam, Steve Reicher, and Sandra Jovchelovitch.

2016    La Fiera della Parole, Padua, Italy. Panel with Claudia Durastanti.

2016    Festival America, Vincennes, France. Panels with Dan Chaon, Sam Lipsyte, John D’Agata, Christopher Bollen, Forrest Gander, Héctor Tobar, and Vu Tran.

2016    Edinburgh International Book Festival. Panel with Francesca Kay.

2016    Franschhoek Literary Festival, South Africa. Panels with Chinelo Okparanta, Ekow Duker, & others.

2015    Kapittel 15: The Stavanger International Festival for Literature & Freedom of Speech, Norway. Multiple events with Ben Marcus, Julie Otsuka, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, and others.

2015    Open Book Festival, Cape Town. Multiple events with Petinah Gappah and others.

2014    London School of Economics, Space for Thought Festival, ‘Where’s the Wrath Now?’, discussing Steinbeck’s legacy with Stephen Fender, John Sutherland, and Maggie Gee.

2013    La Fiera delle Parole, Padua, Italy.

2013    Edinburgh International Book Festival. In conversation with Philipp Meyer.

2012    The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, UK. In conversation with Janet Suzman and Sue MacGregor.

2012    Kapittel 12: The Stavanger International Festival for Literature & Freedom of Speech, Norway. In conversation with Norwegian novelist Simon Stranger.

2012    Open Book Festival, Cape Town, South Africa. Multiple events. In conversation with Alan Hollinghurst and others.

2012    Edinburgh International Book Festival.

2012    Cambridge Wordfest, UK. In conversation with Ali Smith and others.

2012    Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival. In conversation with Chibundu Onuzo.


Public Readings:

2016    Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca, New York. July.

2016    Tattered Cover, Denver, Colorado. July.

2016    BookCourt, Brooklyn, New York. In conversation with Charlotte Rogan. July.

2016    Love Books, Johannesburg, South Africa. In conversation with CA Davids. May.

2016    Kalk Bay Books, Cape Town, South Africa. In conversation with Mark Gevisser. May.

2015    Bury St Edmunds Library. As part of Writers Centre Norwich’s Brave New Reads campaign. September.

2015    Diss Library. As part of Writers Centre Norwich’s Brave New Reads campaign. June

2015    Litteraturhuset, Bergen, Norway. April.

2015    Bergen Library, Norway. April.

2014    Philomathean Society, University of Pennsylvania. November.

2014    The Center for Fiction, New York. November.

2014    Camera Obscura. In conversation with Ivan Vladislavić and Neel Mukherjee. June.

2014    Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York, Global Modernism Symposium. April.

2014    McNally Jackson Bookstore, New York. With Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, and Eliot Schrefer. March.

2013    Polari Salon, Southbank Centre, London. With Charlotte Mendelson and others. November.

2013    Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. August.

2013    Queens College, Oxford. Reading and in conversation with A.S. Byatt. April.

2012    National University of Ireland Maynooth. October.

2012    University of York, UK. Reading with J.M. Coetzee, Brian Chikwava, and others. September.

2012    Schenectady Public Library, NY. July.

2012    Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. April.

2012    WISER, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa. April.


Invited Lectures

  • Invited Keynote. ‘Of Lawrence’s Other Spaces’. Opening Lecture, 14th International D.H. Lawrence Conference: London Calling, Lawrence and the Metropolis. 3 July 2017.
  • Invited Lecture Tour. In 2015 and 2016, the Independent Exam Board in South Africa included Absolution as an option choice for high school students. This is the premiere examination board for South African private schools and is used by more than 300 institutions in the country. In both years, I undertook a lecture tour organized by educational publisher The English Experience. Over the two years, this entailed thirty-three talks and Q&A sessions in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, and Pietermaritzburg, with a total audience of more than 7500 students and teachers.
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