Dr Richard Robinson
Associate Professor
English Literature & Creative Writing
Telephone: (01792) 602796

Richard Robinson is the author of two monographs, Narratives of the European Border: A History of Nowhere (Palgrave, 2007) and John McGahern and Modernism (Bloomsbury, 2016). His more recent book draws out the ways McGahern’s fiction conceals and reveals its modernist traces. McGahern’s narratives of melancholic return are often read psycho-biographically, but they also involve a return to the remnants of literature, including that of canonical modernists, such as Joyce, Proust, Yeats and Beckett. 

Richard has published widely on modernism and contemporary fiction, in journals such as James Joyce Quarterly, Journal of European Studies, Critical Quarterly, Modern Fiction Studies, Textual Practice and Irish University Review. He is currently developing a collaborative project on style, considered as a concept in literary criticism, theory and philosophy. He will initially be exploring the cultural conditions in the academy which led to the near disappearance of style in the 1970s, the uneasy relation between style and that branch of linguistics known as stylistics, and the way in which the legacy of modernism has affected theoretical debates about style. Richard will consider this ‘period’ reconstruction of mid-late-twentieth century style as it relates to the recent upsurge of interest in style and ethics.

His research interests also include:

  • Modernism; James Joyce; Italo Svevo; Rebecca West.
  • The afterlife of modernism in contemporary writing; Irish literature; John McGahern; Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Edward St Aubyn.
  • The literary representation of geopolitical borders.

Publications

  1. John McGahern and Modernism. London: Bloomsbury.
  2. & The Violation of Style: Englishness in Edward St Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels. Textual Practice, 1-22.
  3. An Umbrella, a Pair of Boots, and a 'Spacious Nothing': McGahern and Beckett. Irish University Review 44(2), 323-340.
  4. ‘That Dubious Enterprise, the Irish Short Story’: The Untilled Field and Dubliners. In Nash, John (Ed.), James Joyce in the Nineteenth Century. (pp. 46-60). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  5. The Modernism of Ian McEwan’s 'Atonement'. MFS Modern Fiction Studies 56(3), 473-495.

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Teaching

  • EN-114 Voices of Poetry

    'Voices of Poetry' is an engaging and exciting module which aims to introduce students to poetry and the various voices it articulates. Taught by well-known poets as well as scholars of poetry, this course will introduce students to a wide range of poetic forms and literary periods, ranging from the medieval lyric to postmodern poetry, from Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath. Particular attention will be paid to the interrelationship between meaning and form, and how rhetorical figures, metre, rhythm, tone, register and the speaker's voice create meaning. 'Voices of Poetry' will also foster an appreciation of how poetic forms are re-written in the socio-historical context in which they were produced.

  • EN-119 The Stage Play World

    The Stage Play World is an introductory module which combines an overview of performance history -- from classical Greek theatre to the present-day stage presentations -- with the development of reading and analytical skills. The module teaches students how to read and understand a stage script and then moves on to a consideration of how to analyse what is being read. The course also teaches students how to argue persuasively from that analysis. The module has been designed to emphasise the continuous development of drama, together with its links to social and historical events and to movements in other forms of art and literature. There are a number of set texts, with additional extracts that will be considered in lectures.

  • EN-206 Debating Texts: Theory in Literature

    Literature prompts debate, and speaks to us differently depending on the questions that we ask of it. This course looks at how our understanding of meaning in literature changes when we think about critical debates concerning the role of history, language and subjectivity in texts. We take three very different texts from different periods, and look at the ways in which the texts (and debates around them) raise questions of history, language and subjectivity, and how the texts comment on these issues. We begin with a classic of 19th century realism, Charles Dickens's HARD TIMES (1854), move on to the groundbreaking work of modernist experiment, Virginia Woolf's MRS DALLOWAY (1925), and end with a powerful example of postmodern representation, Toni Morrison's BELOVED (1987). The course will be taught by a formal lecture followed by a discussion forum, in which short passages of literary and theoretical text will be read and debated in the lecture theatre.

  • EN-207 Revolution of the Word: Modernism

    An introduction to Modernist literature, focussing upon its origins in response to the crisis of modernity, its engagement with colonialism and the First World War, its formal experimentation, its depiction of city-life and its engagement with new ideas of gender and the unconscious.

  • EN-241 Fragments of Union: The Cultural Making and Breaking of Britain

    The nationality question has been a persistent theme in British politics, most obviously in recent decades in relationship to questions of immigration and settlement, Britain¿s membership of Europe, the `troubles¿ and `peace process¿ in Ulster, and the resurgence of forms of devolution and nationalism in Wales and Scotland. This course explores the ways in which the diverse literatures of the British Isles have responded to, and shaped, debates around these issues. The questions asked on the course will include: How does a `four nations¿ approach, well-established in historical studies, function in literary studies? What are the key differences and similarities between the literatures produced in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales? To what extent does literature reflect social identities, and to what extent is it active in their creation? If all identities are in as sense `imagined¿, why have certain kinds of identities been significant in particular periods? Is an aesthetics informed by nationalism inevitably conservative and restrictive? Are linguistically experimental writers always skeptical of collective identities? Are we witnessing the `break up¿ of Britain in contemporary literature, or is Britishness being reconstructed anew?

  • EN-3029 Postmodernist and Post-war Fiction

    This course examines some of the fictions of the late twentieth century which, marked by a formal self-consciousness, have sometimes been referred to as postmodernist. The usefulness of this category, regarded as a chronological period after modernism or as a self-reflexive theory of narrative, will be fully tested. We will consider how the problem of representing history is connected to the defamiliarisation of realist narrative. In the first part of the module, we study a novel which has been termed `historiographic metafiction¿, an anti-war novel which incorporates science fiction and a novella in which a woman takes charge of the narrative by seeking out her unwitting murderer. We then turn to more recent novels, two of which lead the reader directly back to the Second World War but continue to probe the consolations of mimetic realism and to question the recuperative power of memory.

  • EN-3031 Dissertation - English Literature

    The Dissertation is an optional, two-semester, 40-credit module designed to develop high-level academic skills and intellectual independence in the students. A first-semester skills-building programme will include: research skills, summary skills, bibliographic skills, ability to synthesise succinctly, planning and organisational skills, correct presentation of a thesis and bibliography, presentational skills and public speaking. Students conduct research on a subject of their choice, devised in consultation with a member of the English literature staff. The topic will be devised to fall within staff research and teaching specialisms, broadly defined. Students attend group sessions on research skills in Semesters 1 and 2, and have individual meetings with supervisors in Semester 2.

  • EN-334 Modern Irish Fiction in English

    This module concentrates on a selection of Irish literature from the twentieth century. We start with James Joyce¿s Dubliners (1914), a collection of short stories which, in merging naturalist and symbolist modes, points towards the high modernism of the 1920s. Samuel Beckett¿s Waiting for Godot (first published in English in 1955 though previously written in French) is one of the best known of all modern plays: in it, according to one critic, `nothing happens, twice¿. Flann O¿Brien¿s The Third Policeman (completed in 1940, though published posthumously) is a cerebral, self-reflexive comedy: a murder mystery, a satire of scholarship and a playful vision of hell. A second strand in this unit will consider the construction of social and political identities in what appear to be more realist types of Irish fiction ¿ particularly narratives of the `Big House¿ which centre on the decline of the Anglo-Irish class. We compare a short story by Sean O¿ Faolain to Elizabeth Bowen¿s novel The Last September (1929), set in a `demesne¿ in County Cork during the Anglo-Irish War. Finally we turn to John McGahern¿s volume of short stories High Ground, examining forms of division in mid-century independent Ireland, as well as meditations on time and memory.

  • EN-M31 Dissertation

    Individual project devised and defined in discussion between supervisor and student.

  • EN-M41 Research Practice in English / Contemporary Writing / Welsh Writing in English

    Supervised project on research methodology in practice. Students build a detailed bibliographical plan for their MA dissertation project.

  • EN-M69 James Joyce and Literary Theory

    This module is centred on the detailed study of the magnus opus of the Anglophone modernist novel, James Joyce's Ulysses (1922). We begin by considering the relationship between late nineteenth century naturalism (in fiction and drama) and symbolism ( in poetry) and how these aesthetic tensions informed Joyce's early development into what we now call a modernist writer. Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young man introduces us to Stephen Dedalus as he formulates his theories of language and art: this is an ironic Bildungsroman of a writer not yet capable of composing Ulysses. Our study of Ulysses concentrates on individual chapters, or pairs of chapters, which are tied to modernist thematics. We discuss the following:the transformation of the supposedly omniscient narrative voice into that of the impersonal "Arranger" of the artwork; the mind of Stephen and the body of Bloom, or soul and matter; debates between Irish cultural nationalism (voiced by the Citizen) and utopian cosmopolitanism (voiced by Bloom, a Jewish Irishman); a parody of the history of English letters and of rationalist encyclopaedism; Molly's interior life, and how mimetically it is rendered. As an aftertaste, we then scrutinise an excerpt- a mere twenty six pages - of Joyce's Finnegans Wake: "Shem the Penman" is, by now a late modernist portrait of the exiled artist. We conclude by tracing Joyce's critical reputation ( not always as secure as it is now0 in Ireland, the United States and Britain, and touch on ways in which signs of Joycean textuality are to be found in more recent fiction.

Supervision

  • Japanese literary and cultural influences in the works of Angela Carter (current)

    Student name:
    PhD
    Other supervisor: Prof Julian Preece
  • Ideas of Landscape in the Fiction of Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson and Louise Erdrich (current)

    Student name:
    PhD
    Other supervisor: Dr Rachel Farebrother