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.


  1. Robinson, R., Sheils, B. The Violation of Style: Englishness in Edward St Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels Textual Practice 1 22
  2. Robinson, R. 'Not Even a Shadow of Violence': Undead History in John McGahern's Anglo-Irish Short Stories (Ed.), Assessing a Literary Legacy: Essays on John McGahern 28 44 Cork Cork University Press
  3. Robinson, R. An Umbrella, a Pair of Boots, and a 'Spacious Nothing': McGahern and Beckett Irish University Review 44 2 323 340
  4. Robinson, R. ‘That Dubious Enterprise, the Irish Short Story’: The Untilled Field and Dubliners (Ed.), James Joyce in the Nineteenth Century 46 60 Cambridge Cambridge University Press

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  • EN-120 English Essentials

    This is a skills-based module which will equip students with the technical and critical expertise that is necessary for their academic journey in English Literature and Creative Writing. It is designed to support the transition from post-16 study to undergraduate study and to show students *how* to become successful scholars of English. How should we read texts? How do we write essays? Focusing on an exciting anthology of texts selected by the English academics at Swansea, this team-taught module uncovers the power of written language. We will explore how writers inspire and challenge their readers, how to think critically, how to close-read, how to construct powerful arguments and how to produce written work that is rigorous, academic and convincing. This module empowers students to think, write, and persuade.

  • 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-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.

  • HUP316 Philosophy and Literature

    Much significant literature of the twentieth and twenty-first century dramatizes ethical and metaphysical questions that are central to the study of philosophy. Plays and novels by writers such as Bertolt Brecht, Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, Arthur Koestler, Milan Kundera and Jenny Erpenbeck enhance our understanding of ethical plights, moral choices, questions of loyalty, affiliation and commitment, the relationship between art, science, political power and freedom, and the relationship of the self and the other. Literature makes manifest universal philosophical questions. Nevertheless, these novels and plays are marked by the particular disfigurements of twentieth-century history, and our approach will be to reveal how these representations of historical trauma, political oppression and social alienation speak of the immediacy and relevance of both philosophical enquiry and literary interpretation.


  • Representing Landscape, Gender, and Ethnicity in the Fiction of Louise Erdrich, Toni Morrison and Marilynne Robinson (current)

    Other supervisor: Dr Rachel Farebrother
  • 21st Century Modernism - Modernist Poetics and Technology in the Digital Age (current)

    Other supervisor: Dr Rachel Farebrother
  • A novel of the women's revolution. (current)

    Other supervisor: Dr Francesca Rhydderch
  • Pentecost Descended: Religion and Nature in the Novels of Willa Cather (current)

    Other supervisor: Dr Rachel Farebrother
  • Interim title only: Sadomasochism and Fantasy in the Life-Writing, Friendships, Sexual Alliances and Fictional Work of Iris Murdoch. (current)

    Other supervisor: Prof Julian Preece
  • Angela Carter in Japan: A study of Angela Carter's work written during her time in Japan from 1969 to 1972. (awarded 2019)

    Other supervisor: Prof Julian Preece