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Dr David James, BA (Birmingham) MSt. (Oxford) DPhil (Sussex)

Reader in Modern and Contemporary Literature



David James

My work focuses on the twentieth- and twenty-first-century novel, with a particular emphasis on the political and ethical aspects of formal innovation in contemporary world Anglophone writing. I joined Queen Mary in 2012 after lecturing for a number years in the School of English at the University of Nottingham. I undertook a joint honours English and Drama programme at Birmingham, before working in gender studies and interwar women’s writing for a Masters at Oxford, after which I pursued a DPhil on contemporary fiction at Sussex. For several years my research has continued to move across modernist studies and contemporary literature in order to think about how these fields might have useful conversations with each other.


Undergraduate teaching:

In the 2015-16 academic year, I am on Leverhulme-funded research leave working on a book about the ethics and poetics of consolation in contemporary narrative.


Research interests:

  • The contemporary novel
  • Modernist literature and culture
  • The politics of form
  • Literary geographies

Recent and On-Going Research

My research spans twentieth- and twenty-first-century writing, focusing especially on developments in the novel as a form. My first book, Contemporary British Fiction and the Artistry of Space (2008), forged dialogues between narrative theory and cultural geography, an approach I advanced in a number of articles on late-modernist regional writers. My most recent monograph, Modernist Futures (Cambridge University Press, 2012), considers the implications of the reanimation of modernist aesthetics in contemporary American, British and world Anglophone fiction. I have edited several collections including The Legacies of Modernism (Cambridge University Press, 2011), which brings together an international cast of scholars to historicize the response of postwar novelists to the formal, political and intellectual consequences and continuities of literary modernism. Other collaborative work has involved two journal special issues: the first, edited with Andrzej Gasiorek (Birmingham), for Contemporary Literature (53.4) on ‘Fiction since 2000: Post-Millennial Commitments’; and the second, edited with Nathan Waddell (Nottingham), for Modernist Cultures (8.1) on ‘Musicality and Modernist Form’.

This editorial strand of research continues on a number of fronts. I have recently edited The Cambridge Companion to British Fiction since 1945, and I’m currently editing Modernism and Close Reading (forthcoming from Oxford University Press). With Matthew Hart (Columbia) and Rebecca Walkowitz (Rutgers), I edit the book series Literature Now at Columbia University Press. The series is the first of its kind to welcome contemporary projects that are comparative and transnational in scope, as well as those focused on national and regional literary cultures.



Modernist Futures: Innovation and Inheritance in the Contemporary Novel (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012)

Contemporary British Fiction and the Artistry of Space: Style, Landscape, Perception (London: Continuum, 2008)

Edited Books

Modernism and Close Reading (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)

The Cambridge Companion to British Fiction since 1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015)

Andrea Levy: Contemporary Critical Perspectives, co-edited with Jeanette Baxter (London: Bloomsbury, 2014)

The Legacies of Modernism: Historicising Postwar and Contemporary Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012)

Selected Articles and Chapters

‘Experimentalism: Self-Reflexive and Postmodern Stories’, in The Cambridge History of the English Short Story, ed. Dominic Head (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016)

‘Worlded Localisms: Cosmopolitics Writ Small’, in Postmodern Literature and Race, ed. Len Platt and Sara Upstone (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015) 

‘Metamodernism: Narratives of Revolution and Continuity’, co-authored with Urmila Seshagiri, PMLA, 129:1 (January 2014): 87–100

‘Capturing the Scale of Fiction at Mid-Century’, in Regional Modernisms, ed. Neal Alexander and James Moran (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013)

‘A Renaissance for the Crystalline Novel?’ Contemporary Literature, 53:4 (Winter 2012): 845–874

‘John Burnside’s Ecologies of Solace:  Regional Environmentalism and the Consolations of Description’. Modern Fiction Studies, 58:3 (Fall 2012): 600–615

‘“Style is Morality”? Aesthetics and Politics in the Amis Era’, Textual Practice, 26:1 (February 2012): 11–25

‘Integrity after Metafiction’, Twentieth-Century Literature, 57:3 (Fall 2011): 492–515

‘Modernist Narratives: Revisions and Re-readings’, in The Oxford Handbook of Modernisms, ed. Peter Brooker, Andrzej Gasiorek, Deborah Longworth, and Andrew Thacker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)

See also my Queen Mary Research Publication profile


PhD Supervision

I have supervised a range of doctorates to completion, including theses on contemporary nature writing, on ethical issues in cosmopolitan fiction, and on late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century responses to Aestheticism. I would welcome for supervision projects on modernist literary culture, narrative theory, and contemporary American, British, Irish and world Anglophone fiction.

Public engagement

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