Dr Sam Durrant

Dr Sam Durrant

Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literature and Critical Theory

+44(0) 113 343 4768

Summary: Postcolonial Literature, Critical and Cultural Theory, African Literature.

Teaching Commitments: Postcolonial Literature (Module convenor) Disposable Lives? (BA Option module) Refugee Narratives (BA Option Module) The Magic of Mimesis (MA Option) Convenor of MA in Critical and Cultural Theory (English Studies)

Dr Sam Durrant BA, University of Manchester; MA, University of 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. I began my career focusing 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 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).  Since then, I have continued to work on memory and trauma in postcolonial contexts.  Following a research fellowship in Brussels, I co-edited The Future of Trauma Theory: Contemporary Literary and Cultural Criticism (Routledge 2014), together with Gert Beulens and Robert Eaglestone.

My interest in trauma has also taken in more practical/activist directions. In 2010 I set up a bibliotherapy group for refugees in conjunction with SOLACE, a local NGO. I published an article on our practice, entitled ‘Reading Asylum’, in Moving Worlds (12.2 2012). I now coordinate three groups across Leeds, led by doctoral students from the School of English. More details can be found at https://bibliotherapyhubleeds.wordpress.com/ .This project formed an Impact Case Study in REF 2014. 

I am currently working on two major research projects. On the one hand, I am co-editing a large inter-disciplinary volume of essays on Refugee Studies: Contemporary Research Across the Humanities for EUP, together with Emma Cox, David Farrier, Lyndsey Stonebridge and Agnes Woolley. On the other, I am working on a monograph provisionally entitled Re-inheriting the World: Animism, Mimesis and Contemporary African literature, which looks at the ways in which literature functions as a surrogate mode of ancestralisation in the wake of postcolonial modernity's drive to abolish such ties. This project draws on rereadings of mimesis not as a representation of the world but as a rite of identification with the world, first theorised by Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno and subsequently taken up by anthropologists such as Michael Taussig. Related to this project is a journal special issue I am co-editing on 'Animism in a Planetary Frame' together with Philip Dickinson.

I have published articles on a variety of postcolonial writers but have written most extensively on the work of J.M. Coetzee.

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; cynical cosmopolitanism in Borges, Beckett and Coetzee; trauma and animism in African literature. Current doctoral students are working on 

    • ' The Creaturely Novel: Sebald, Coetzee and Devi’ 
    • ‘Alienated cosmopolitans: Human rights, biopolitics and literary form in the contemporary African novel’ 
    • ‘Beyond apologias: Professing the aesthetic in the era of the modern university’ 
    • 'Community as Philosophy in African Literature'

I welcome proposals in any area that combines postcolonial literature and critical theory in imaginative ways.

Recent Publications

“Surviving Time: Trauma, Tragedy and the Postcolonial Novel.” The Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies 1.1 (Spring 2012): 95-11

‘Undoing Sovereignty: Towards a Theory of Critical Mourning’ in The Future of Trauma Theory: Contemporary Literary and Cultural Criticism. Co-edited with Gert Beulens and Robert Eaglestone. Routledge, 2014. 91-110.

“Life after Necropolitics: Spirit-Writing, Creaturely Mimesis and Auto-Ancestralisation in Chris Abani’s Song for Night” Forthcoming in Research in African Literatures 48.3 (forthcoming August 2018).

Recent Activities

‘Edinburgh Contemporary Research on Refugee Writing.’ Co-presentation with David Farrier and Agnes Woolley. Northern Postcolonial Network Symposium on Asylum, Refuge, Migration, Salford University Jan. 2016

‘Strange Company: Cosmopolitanism, Statelessness and Creaturely Life’ Plenary Paper at Graduate Workshop on ‘The Creaturely, the Human, and the Global’. Stockholm University, June 2016.

‘The dynamics of empathy in bibliotherapy’ Invited Presentation at ‘Getting the Word Out: Facilitating Reading & Writing Groups with Refugees & Asylum Seekers’, 10 June 2016, Edinburgh University.

‘Reading Together’ Workshop organised in collaboration with Leeds Central Library to promote my network of bibliotherapy groups in Leeds. June 20th (with Wellcome Trust funding)

‘Creaturely Transitions in South African Literature and Visual Culture’. Plenary Panel Presentation, ACLALS triennial conference, Stellenbosch University July 2016.

‘Coetzee and the Art of Inheritance’ Coetzee’s Other Arts. Symposium at University of the Western Cape, July 2016.

‘Bibliotherapy and the Limits of Empathy.’ Invited workshop at ‘Reading and activism in local, regional and national contexts,’ September 2016, Bristol University.

‘Reconstellating Animist Materialism’ Animism in a Planetary Frame Stream (Convened with Philip Dickinson) American Comparative Literature Association, Utrecht University, July 2017.

Current Teaching


Postcolonial Literature (module convenor)
Poetry: Reading and Interpretation
Refugee Narratives
Disposable Lives?


The Magic of Mimesis.

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