Dominic O'Key

Dominic O'Key

PhD candidate in Comparative Literature

Summary: Comparative Literature; Critical Theory; W. G. Sebald; J. M. Coetzee; Critical Animal Studies; critical veganism; the creaturely;


"Creaturely Forms: Sebald, Coetzee, Devi"

My research project investigates the concepts of the "creature" and the "creaturely" in the works of W. G. Sebald, J. M. Coetzee, and Mahasweta Devi. By working with a definition of the creaturely that sits somewhere between animal studies and political theology, and between posthumanism and humanism, I am particularly interested in how the novel form simultaneously challenges and reinforces the space between humans and nonhumans.

I am supervised by Dr Helen Finch and Dr Sam Durrant. I am affiliated with Prof Stuart Taberner's Leverhulme Trust Major Research Project "Traumatic Pasts, Cosmopolitanism, and Nation-Building in Contemporary German and South African Literature". My PhD research is fully funded by the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies.

Activities and engagement: I am an editor of the cultural studies and critical theory journal, parallax. I convene the Creaturely Life reading group, and was the 2016/17 co-director of Quilting Points, the interdisciplinary critical theory group. For this, Rachel Johnson and I explored the work of Hannah Arendt, and invited presentations from Profs. Simon Swift (Geneva), Patrick Hayden (St Andrews) and Lyndsey Stonebridge (East Anglia). I have also co-organised a number of workshops on world literature and memory: the WRoCAH-funded event World Against Globe: Reconceptualising World Literatures Today (April 2016); a joint workshop with Kings College London, Futures of Memory (Feb 2017); and, in May 2017, Ian Ellison and I hosted a one-day PGR conference on the future of studying W. G. Sebald, Beyond Sebald: New Trajectories in Sebald Studies.

I am also a member of the Northern Animals collective. Together with Caitlin Stobie, I organised the second meeting of the collective, Northern Animals #2: Animals and Borders. Hosted at the Leeds Museum's Discovery Centre, our workshop explored borders from an animal studies perspective. The workshop featured a store tour of the Discovery Centre’s collection of illegal and confiscated taxidermy; public engagement with New Wortley Community Centre's Men's Walking Group; and a reading by South African author Henrietta Rose-Innes at Wharf Chambers. This event was made possible by funding from the Institute of Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, the British Society for Literature and Science, International Writers at Leeds, and the School of English.

Recent conferences: I have presented on literature, critical theory and cinema at conferences including: University of London's Coetzee and the Archive (2017); 'Contemporary Literature and the Archive' at American Comparative Literature Association Annual Convention (2017); Universität Würzburg's Texts, Animals, Environments: Zoopoetics and Environmental Poetics (2016); Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre's workshop Confronting Difficult Pasts (2016); Stockholms Universitet's workshop The Creaturely, The Human, The Global (2016); Universiteit Gent's Questions of Scale in Contemporary Literature (2016); Universität Kassel's Animal Biographies (2016); the University of Cumbria's Visualising the Animal (2015); and the University of Sheffield's Reading Animals (2014). In October 2015 I was invited to the University of Manchester to discuss Werner Herzog's documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams. You can listen to this paper here

Teaching and responsibilities:


'The Natural History of the Herring in W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn', in Writing Meat: Flesh-Eating and Literature Since 1900, ed. by Seán McCorry and John Miller (forthcoming, 2019)

'W. G. Sebald's Zoopoetics: Writing After Nature', in Texts, Animals, Environments, ed. by Frederike Middelhoff, Sebastian Schönbeck, Roland Borgands, Catrin Gersdorf (Freiburg: Rombach, forthcoming 2017)

'Postscript, Posthuman: Werner Herzog's Crocodile at the End of the World', in Animal Biographies, ed. by André Krebber and Mieke Roscher (forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)

'Paul Celan and the Poetics of Anxiety', WRoCAH Journal, vol. 1 (2016)

'The First Need: Hunger in Jan Nemec's Diamonds of the Night', Studies in Eastern European Cinema, vol. 7 (2016), 102-113


'Look to the Piglet: on Bong Joon-Ho's Okja', Berfrois, 2017, co-authored with Caitlin Stobie

'Writing Between Species: Yoko Tawada's Memoirs of a Polar Bear', 3:AM Magazine, 2017

'Curiosity and Refusal: Werner Herzog's Late Documentaries', The Cinematologists, 2017 

Find my Academia profile here.