Dr Sam Durrant

Dr Sam Durrant

Senior Lecturer in Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literature

+44(0) 113 343 4768

Summary: Postcolonial Literature (module convenor) Poetry: Reading and Interpretation Memorialising Slavery Disposable Lives? Critical and Cultural Theory MA Coordinator.

Dr Sam Durrant BA, Manchester; MA, Missouri-Columbia; PhD, Queen's University, Canada

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in the relationships between literature, memory, subjectivity and community, particularly as they pertain to the fields of postcolonial studies and critical theory. More specifically, I focus on the problems involved in memorialising the traumatic histories of racial oppression that continue to haunt our postcolonial era. These problems are the central concern of both my first monograph Postcolonial Narrative and the Work of Mourning: J.M Coetzee, Wilson Harris and Toni Morrison (State University of New York Press, 2004), and my current book Recalcitrant Mourning in Postapartheid Literature: Reconciliation and its Discontents (due out with Routledge in 2014). The latter reads postapartheid literature as a critique of the abstractions inherent in the South African project of national reconciliation, arguing instead for a notion of corporeal community that draws on the one hand from Benjamin and Adorno's account of the mimetic capacity of the artwork to bring us into proximity with objective life, and on the other on Judith Butler's understanding of how we are undone by loss.

My interest in critical theory means that my work often tends to be interdisciplinary. Essays in Migratory Aesthetics (Rodopi 2007), co-edited with Catherine Lord, includes essays by cultural theorists and practitioners working in literature, fine art, film and psychoanalysis while The Future of Trauma Theory: Contemporary Literary and Cultural Criticism (Routledge 2013), co-edited with Gert Beulens and Robert Eaglestone, brings together many of the most exciting scholars currently working on trauma.

I have published articles on a variety of South African, Nigerian, Caribbean and North American writers but have written most extensively on the work of the Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee.

My research interests in literature, trauma, and empathy also have a practical side. I have developed a model of bibliotherapy for refugees and asylum seekers in collaboration with local charities and written about the experience of running a bibliotherapy group in an article published entitled ‘Reading Asylum’, published in a special issue of the journal Moving Worlds (12.2 2012).

I have supervised undergraduate and MA theses in numerous areas of postcolonial and 20th/21st Century Literature. My doctoral students tend to be equally interested in both literature and critical theory: recent theses have focused on Michael Ondaatje and deconstruction; queer modes of belonging in postcolonial literature; and cynical cosmopolitanism in Borges, Beckett and Coetzee. I welcome proposals in any area that combines literature (primarily that designated modern, contemporary and/or postcolonial) and critical theory in imaginative ways.

I am also the coordinator of our new MA in Critical And Cultural Theory and welcome enquiries from prospective students.

Recent Activities

'Working Through Literature: Bibliotherapy for Refugees and Asylum Seekers.' Invited Lecture at the Northern School for Adolescent and Child Therapy, Leeds May 2013.

‘Strategies of Displacement in David’s Story, or The Circulation of Grief as Radical Humour’ Symposium on Zoe Wicomb and the Translocal. York University, September 2012.

‘Corporeal Community: Literature and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,’ University of Manchester, March 2012.’

Witnessing the Witness: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Space of Literature’ Paper Delivered as part of the Comparative Amnesia Seminar Series,  School of Modern Languages, University of Leeds, March 2012.

‘Corporeal Community: Coetzee’s Resembling Bodies.’ Symposium on Coetzee and his Precursors, University of Leeds June 2011

‘Mourning and Mimesis: J. M. Coetzee’s Resembling Bodies.’ Centre for Literature and Trauma, Gent University, June 2009.

May-June 2009:  International visiting fellow at the Flemish Institute of Advanced Study in Brussels, as part of a research collective exploring new directions in trauma theory. During my time there I gave a plenary paper at a conference on 'The Memory of Catastrophe' and a lecture at Ghent University as part of their Literature and Trauma Series. Other recent invited papers include

‘Adorno's alternative to both the secular and the religious state: mimesis and the possibility of community in postapartheid South Africa.’ Conference on the Secular and the Sacred. Southampton University, September 2008.

‘Gender, Mourning and Community in Postapartheid Fiction.’ Cultural Memory Conference, Kent University, Sept 2008.

‘Psychomping, qu'est que c'est?" Ferrying the Souls of the Dead during the Transition to Democracy in South Africa.’ University of Newcastle, May 2008.

 "The Artist as Psychopomp in Postapartheid Literature." The Moore Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway, April 2007.

"Mourning, Gender and Community in Postapartheid South Africa." Cultural Memory Seminar Series, Senate House, University of London, February 2007.



Postcolonial Literature (module convenor)
Poetry: Reading and Interpretation
Memorialising Slavery
Disposable Lives?


Imperial Designs
Postcolonial Representations

Coordinator of Critical and Cultural Theory MA (English Studies).