Dr Denis Flannery

Dr Denis Flannery

Senior Lecturer in American Literature

+44(0) 113 343 4742

Summary: I have teaching and research interests across American, Irish and English Literatures, Theatre, Cinema and Theory with a particular emphasis on the interrelations between culture, writing and affect.

Dr Denis Flannery MA, NUI; DPhil, Oxford

Research interests

I have teaching and research interests in various areas of writing, culture and theory - namely American Literature, Cinema (especially the work of David Fincher and Derek Jarman), Victorian Literature, Twentieth-Century and Contemporary Literature and Eighteenth-Century Literature, Henry James, legal-literary relations, gender studies. queer theory and Irish Studies.

My first monograph was Henry James: A Certain Illusion (Ashgate Publishing, 2000) and my second, On Sibling Love, Queer Attachment and American Writing, also from Ashgate, was published in 2007.

Henry James has been foundational for my work in many different ways. James featured prominently in my book On Sibling Love and I have published on the figure of apostrophe and its relationship to mourning in recent James-fixated fiction by writers like Alan Hollinghurst as well as on the relationship between devotion and queer subjectivity in James's short stories. Over the last few years  I have been writing on the relationship between Henry James and a number of different figures, some of whom we might expect to be connected to the Master, some of whom we might not. These include Robert Baden-Powell (looking at James's The Art of the Novel and  Baden-Powell's  contemporaneous Scouting for Boys), Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Since 2008 I have been looking at Ireland in James, how it was for him an object of anxious derision and tentative curiosity, as well as being a source of inspiration. This work freshly considers the relationship between genre and Jamesian internationalism. Its major focus is on the divided status James confers on the occupants, émigrés, and writing of Ireland. James barely acknowledges Ireland as a site of origin and he sometimes figures it as an object of repugnance. Yet values that are foundational to James's sense of ethically validated subjectivity - autonomy, idealism, and an emphasis on non-instrumental subjectivity - are repeatedly connected with Ireland in his fiction, his critical writing and his drama. This project explores this contradiction by concentrating on the forgotten Irish aspects of some of James's best-known texts and through readings of some of his neglected fiction. It also considers historical questions such as the Irish provenance of the James family, the haunting presence of the Great Famine in his most celebrated writing, his relationship to figures such as Parnell and Wilde and his ongoing cultural presence in twenty-first century Ireland.

On Sibling Love, Queer Subjectivity and American Writing responded to the ways in which queer theory has both consistently refused to countenance the importance of sibling relationships to queer attachment the same time that it is haunted by images, anecdotes and metaphors of fraternal and sororal intimacy. The book opens with a consideration of this problem in queer theory and, in its first part, goes on to consider topics such as the relationship between sibling presence and animal life, sibling desire, taboo and literary form, and the role of siblings in queer visibility. This first part focuses on nineteenth-century American writing with a particular emphasis on Herman Melville and Henry James. The book then moves on to consider some postmodern manifestations of these same topics in writing by authors such as Cormac McCarthy, Jamaica Kincaid and Chuck Palahniuk as well as film-makers like Jennie Livingston and David Fincher.

Cinema and visual culture have played an important part in my other work which has looked, for example, at Fincher's 1995 film Seven in terms of queer theory and more recently at the role of the pair in Robert Mapplethorpe's photography.But  my more recent work has focused on Theatre, Irish Studies and creative writing. My work on theatre concentrates on  the Dutch Theatre company Toneelgroep, Amsterdam (TGA).  I have recently completed a major article about TGA's production of Tony Kushner's Angels in America paying  attention to the 'presence' of David Bowie's music and persona in their reading of those plays. This work has coincided with a major upsurge of interest in the work of David Bowie, most notably with exhibitions in London, Leeds and the release of The Next Day, Bowie's first album in ten years. Responding to this renewed interest, I gave, in July 2013, a public lecture at Leeds' White Cloth Gallery entitled "Writing David Bowie" as part of their exhibition of photographs of the singer by Brian Duffy.

My most recent publication is a major article on Ernie O'Malley, one of the great 'heroes' of Irish anti-colonial resistance and decolonization. That work unfolds the significance of Shakespeare's sonnets as a 'closet object' in O'Malley's memoirs, limning homoerotic energies at play in the unlikely milieu of the Anglo-Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War. Finally, I am in the process of completing, in collaboration with my father (who was born in Tipperary in 1919), a memoir of his life there in the 1920s and the 1930s.

I teach across a wide range of American and English literatures and would welcome PhD applications from anyone broadly interested in the kinds of questions my own projects are asking.

Current and past research students include MAs and PhDs on Food and Writing in Afro-American culture; the Palimpsest and the Representation of Identity in American Fiction; Henry James, Impressionism and the Public Sphere; Time, Pain and Theatricality in Tony Kushner , Alan Hollingurst and the Vitality of Influence, Masculinity and Images of the Astronaut; Gender, Sexuality and Modernist Magazines. 

Recent Activities

Guest Speaker Irish Strands and the Imperial Eye: Henry James's The Modern Warning' The Modern Seminar, English Department, University of York, January 30, 2008.

Conference Paper, "Irish Strands and the Imperial Eye: Henry James's The Modern Warning", Jamesian Strands Conference, Newport, Rhode Island, July 2008.

Research Salon, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, 'Waiting, Teaching, Loving: Henry James and Others', September, 2008.

Appointed External Examiner in English Studies, Strathclyde University.

Guest Speaker, The Thackeray Socety, The Reform Club, London, 'Henry James and the Invitation', April 2009. 

Conference Paper: 'Ernie O'Malley, Shakespeare's Sonnets and the Book as Closet Object', Irish Masculinites Conference, Queen's University Belfast, February 2010.

Guest Speaker: 'Henry James and Ireland', Dept of English Vanderbilt University & Dept of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, April 2010.

Conference Paper: 'Henry James, Ireland, Surface Reading', Henry James and the Poetics of Duplicity Conference, The American University in Paris, October 2010.

Guest Speaker: 'The Book and the Lake: Preface to a Collaborative Memoir', National Library of Ireland, Dublin, November 2010.

Guest Speaker, 'Henry James and Ireland', Victorian Literature Seminar, Faculty of English Language and Literature, Oxford University, February 2011

Guest Speaker, 'Henry James and Ireland', Dept of English, University Paul Valery III, Montpelier, April 2011

Conference Paper: 'The Duplex Book: Henry James, Ireland, Transformation', Transforming Henry James Conference, John Cabot University, Rome, July 2011

Guest Speaker & Visiting Professor, 'Henry James, Ireland, Surface Reading', Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Studies Symposium, Robert Penn Warren Centre for the Humanities, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, September 2011.  

Conference Paper,  'Henry James's Barry Lyndon', Thackeray in Time Conference, University of Leeds, October 2011 and at the conference Placing Henry James in London, July 2012.  I also gave an opening address for this conference entitled "Henry James and the Reform Club" at the Reform Club.

Guest Speaker, '"Floating in A Most Peculiar Way": Angels in America, David Bowie, Tonnelgroep Amsterdam'.  BIGS (Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality Seminar), University of London, February 2013, Cultivating Research Seminar, Department of Theatre, University of Manchester, May 2013 and School of English and Drama Research Seminar, University College Dublin, October 2013.

Keynote Address: 'How to Live Together; or, Modernist Intimacy in 1897', Modernist Intimacies Conference, University of Sussex, May 2013.

Guest Speaker, 'Cluster', Fantasies of the Good Life: Reading Cruel Optimism with Lauren Berlant Seminar University College Dublin, June 2013

Public Lecture, 'Writing David Bowie', David Bowie/Brian Duffy Exhibition, White Cloth Gallery, Leeds, July 2013.



Love Stories

Two Novels: George Eliot's Middlemarch and Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady.

Writing America

Reading Prose

American Words, American Worlds.


Feeling Time (MA seminar to begin 2014-15)