Critical Life

Critical Life hosts a number of research endeavours (not circumscribed by field or specialism) which come together in their critical exploration of ‘the vital’ in some form. The states of life that comprise our current points of collaboration include: refugees, indigeneity and transculturality; the biopolitical, genetics and anthropogenesis; psychic, animal and ‘creaturely’ life; spirit life and the bonds between the living and the dead.  Our research also shares a concern with forms of mediation that might be thought of as ‘close-to-life’ – in particular, at present, virtuality, life-writing, and animation.  We produce a public engagement website that publishes content on these and related matters at   

As Critical Life evokes the engagement of critical thought with social, economic and cultural life that lies at the heart of the humanities, we have worked on several focused impact projects. Principal among these are bibliotherapy and refugees,; the Ottoman Empire and transcultural dialogue,; virtual Holocaust memory; and mental health.  Critical Life supports its own visiting speaker seminar series; is involved with reading groups (Creaturely Life,; Quilting Points; and runs PGR training events   Together with colleagues at Lancaster University we co-founded the Northern Theory School (NTS), which encompasses over a dozen participating universities, shared lectures by key figures in critical theory, and our own publication series,  

Amongst our current postgraduate research are projects on Bishop and the Baroque; Hilary Mantel’s spectrality; biopolitics and contemporary Gothic; psychoanalysis and animism in African literature; Nigerian literature and the limits of human rights discourse; traumatic landscapes in postapartheid fiction; international literature of conscience; the corporatisation of English Studies; and modernist lesbian fiction/ life writing. The new MA in Creative Writing, Critical LIfe -- an exceptional postgraduate degree in covering both creative and critical practices -- is coordinated by Critical Life.

Our PhD supervision expertise covers a broad terrain of work in, or engaging with, critical theory. We offer supervision expertise in the following: psychoanalysis; Frankfurt School critical theory; the relations between the philosophy of the enlightenment and modernity; trauma studies and cultural memory, particularly in relation to Holocaust, Black Atlantic, Postcolonial and Diasporic studies; affect and animal studies; suffering and its representations in visual culture; film and television studies; deconstruction; and the study of gender and sexuality.

Our current or recently-graduated research students have been working on the following PhD thesis topics:

  • Images of Jesus in Contemporary Fiction
  • The presence of the Holocaust in contemporary English poetry
  • Kynical Cosmopolitanism in Beckett, Borges and Coetzee 
  • Breaking the Silence of a forgotten army: Prisoner of war memoirs from the Sumatra railway (funded by an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, with the Imperial War Museum)
  • Undeath and 'bare life': the politics of the contemporary Gothic (AHRC funded)
  • Postcards from Exile: Exile and Writing in Early Modern Literature
  • Hilary Mantel’s Poetics of Haunting
  • Trans clinical-autobiographical negotiations (funded by Leeds University Scholarship)
  • Animism and Trauma in African Conflict Narratives
  • Laplanche, Kristeva, Lyotard: Towards an Alinguistic Unconscious (funded by Leeds International Research Scholarship)

For further information on our research interests, or to make an inquiry, please see our individual staff profile pages:

Dr Matt Boswell -

Dr Sam Durrant -

Professor John McLeod -

Dr Brendon Nicholls - 

Dr Jay Prosser -

Dr Nicholas Ray-