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Prof Joseph Brooker

  • Overview



    • My latest book is Jonathan Lethem and the Galaxy of Writing (London: Bloomsbury, 2020).


    • BA English, University of East Anglia, 1994
    • MA Culture & Communication, University of East Anglia, 1995
    • PhD, University of London, 1999
    • Professional Accreditation for Teaching in Higher Education , Institute of Education, 2001
  • Research


    Research interests

    • Modernism
    • Irish Literature
    • C20 British writing and culture
    • US Fiction

    Research overview

    I work on modern and contemporary literature and culture, concentrating primarily on Britain, Ireland and the United States. I have written in particular on the work of James Joyce and Flann O’Brien, and on British and American writing since the 1980s.

    James Joyce
    My first book, Joyce’s Critics (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), was a contribution to the study of James Joyce and the reception of modernism through the twentieth century. The book has received the following responses:

    ‘A vibrant guide to the reception of Joyce’s work by many minds and cultures. Joe Brooker sifts the evidence with such clarity that his own study becomes a distinguished addition to the canon of Joyce criticism.’ – Declan Kiberd, author of Inventing Ireland

    ‘A very important work.’ – Michael Patrick Gillespie

    ‘He has taught me a great deal, and I don’t think there’s a Joyce critic alive who wouldn’t learn much that is valuable from this book.’ – Joseph Kelly, James Joyce Literary Supplement

    ‘It reads like a well-written novel of ideas.’ – English Literature in Transition

    I have published several chapters, articles and reviews on Joyce’s work, and given numerous papers in this field, in the UK, Ireland and Italy.

    I continue to teach Joyce at BA and MA level, and to be involved in the University of London seminars for research into Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

    o    In June 2011 I co-organized a two-day international conference on Joycean Literature, along with Finn Fordham. The conference featured 40 papers from international scholars on diverse aspects of Joyce's literary legacy. Plenary addresses were given by Prof Michael Wood (Princeton) and Prof Derek Attridge (University of York).

    o    In 2012 the British Library asked me to present an event on Bloomsday (16th June) introducing James Joyce’s Ulysses to a large audience of the general public. I organized the event with Finn Fordham (RHUL) and with actors to give readings from Joyce’s book.

    o    In 2014 was the organizer of the 2-day conference 100 Dubliners, which marked 100 years since James Joyce’s first book of fiction.

    o    I advised on the International James Joyce Symposium, held at the Institute of English Studies in June 2016. This was the largest event on Joyce in London since 2000.

    Flann O'Brien

    My book Flann O’Brien (Northcote House, 2005) seeks to demonstrate his peculiar relevance to developing areas in Irish Studies and the new modernist studies: notably nationalism and postcolonial conditions, and the mass-market press in which Flann O’Brien unleashed so much of his wit. I have also explored these issues in a number of chapters and essays.

    In 2004 I co-edited a special issue of the Journal of Law and Society (31:1, March 2004) with Patrick Hanafin and Adam Gearey from Birkbeck’s School of Law. My own contribution looks closely at a number of texts by Flann O’Brien that had not previously received critical attention, seeking to situate these in the context of postcolonial law.

    o    Arising from this work, in February 2005 I was invited to give three papers (on satire, literature and theory) at Cardozo School of Law, New York City.

    o    In September 2015 I gave the opening keynote address, 'Do Bicycles Dream of Molecular Sheep?', at the biannual International Flann O'Brien Symposium, which was held in Prague. A much expanded and revised version of this keynote was later published in The Parish Review: Journal of Flann O'Brien Studies.

    The 1980s and after
    Much of my teaching and writing has been in areas closer to the present day. With Roger Luckhurst I co-edited a special edition of New Formations on Remembering the 1990s (50, Autumn 2003). This interdisciplinary set of essays was one of the first academic publications to attempt a review of the decade which had recently passed.

    From 2012 to 2018 I was the inaugural Director of the Centre for Contemporary Literature, situated in Birkbeck's School of Arts. This made me responsible for organizing events involving writers and critics. Our website contains a thorough online archive of our events.

    My book Literature of the 1980s: After the Watershed was published by Edinburgh University Press in 2010. This book, written with the support of a grant from the AHRC, considers a wide range of British writers in relation to major topics and conflicts of the 1980s, and is the first full-length study of British literature and culture in that decade. In May 2011 I gave a research paper based on this material to staff at the Freie Universität Berlin. In August 2011 I discussed this book with Ray Ryan and Stuart Kelly on a panel at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Literature of the 1980s has received the following responses:

    ‘The real strength of the book lies in its ability to provide such an impressively thorough account of a wide range of texts alongside some impassioned and convincing close readings of so many of them. Brooker is doing much more than simply defining, checking or expanding the shifting canons of eighties literature: his literary readings and his sense of the period make both available to us anew.’ – Nicky Marsh, Textual Practice

    ‘Joseph Brooker's book manages the admirable task of introducing and even historicising a period whose legacy is just beginning to be understood. Ranging from Derrida to Duran Duran, he provides an exemplary work of literary and cultural history, while braiding politics and literature together in revealing close readings of key authors and texts. This is a brave, lucid and richly informed book, necessary reading for anyone interested in understanding a tumultuous period in the cultural history of these islands.’ – Ray Ryan, author of Writing in the Irish Republic and co-editor, The Good of the Novel

    In 2009 I organised a one-day symposium at Birkbeck to mark the 25th anniversary of Martin Amis’s novel Money. This resulted in a special issue of Textual Practice which I edited for publication in 2012.

    In 2012 I chaired events at the Bloomsbury Festival featuring, among others, the biographer Rosemary Ashton, Prof John Sutherland, the author Lynne Truss and Faber novelist Alex Preston. At 2013’s Bloomsbury Festival I held a public conversation with the writer Iain Sinclair and the radical academic and public intellectual Professor Phil Cohen.

    US Literature
    In recent years, more of my teaching and writing has concerned modern American literature. I have taught numerous classes on American modernism (from Gertrude Stein to Zora Neale Hurston) and on contemporary US fiction (from Toni Morrison to Jennifer Egan). My fourth book, Jonathan Lethem and the Galaxy of Writing (London: Bloomsbury, 2020) is one of the first full-length studies of this prolific and acclaimed US novelist. Reading Lethem in relation to five themes crucial to his work, the book considers influence and intertextuality; the role of genres such as crime, science fiction and the Western; the imaginative production of worlds; superheroes and comic book traditions; and the representation of New York City. Close readings of Lethem's fiction are contextualized by reference to broader conceptual and comparative frames, as well as to Lethem's own voluminous non-fictional writing and his adaptation of precursors from Franz Kafka to Raymond Chandler.

    Research Centres and Institutes

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I welcome enquiries from prospective postgraduate students who are interested in undertaking research in areas on which I have expertise.

    These might include: James Joyce; Flann O'Brien; Modernism, especially Irish; British literature and culture, especially the late C20 areas explored in my work; US fiction; the history of modern literary criticism and ways of writing about culture.

    As of August 2021 I have supervised or co-supervised 12 PhDs to completion.

    I am currently supervising students in the following areas:

    • Samuel Beckett and Radio Drama
    • French Theory in British Culture, 1956-1986
    • Camp Modernism

    Current doctoral researchers


    Doctoral alumni since 2013-14



    At BA, MA and PhD level I teach literature in English from modernism to the present day. I was director of the MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature for two spells between 2008 and 2016. From 2012 to 2013 I was director of BA English. I have also served as deputy director of postgraduate research.

    From 2018 to 2021 I served as Assistant Dean for Postgraduate Research Students in the School of Arts.

    From 2002-2005 I was the external examiner of the Foundation Certificate in Literature at Goldsmiths College. From 2007 to 2010 I served as external examiner for the BA English degree at the University of Sussex. From 2015 to 2017 I was External Examiner for the MA in Modernism & Contemporary Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. From 2017 to 2019 I was external examiner for the Institute of Continuing Education at the University of Cambridge.

    Teaching modules

    • Dissertation (Literature and Culture 1800-present) (AREN145D7)
    • America Rewired: US Literature and Culture since the 1960s (AREN249S6)
    • Writing the Planet (AREN292S7)
    • Modes of American Writing (AREN301S7)
    • Writing London (ENHU007S4)
    • Becoming Modern (ENHU049S7)
  • Publications




    Book Section

    • Brooker, Joseph (2022) Lethem, Jonathan. In: O'Donnell, P. and Burn, S. and Larkin, L. (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Fiction 1980-2020. Wiley Blackwell. pp. 1-6. ISBN 9781119431718.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2021) Lethem, Jonathan. In: Burn, S.J. and O'Donnell, P. and Larkin, L. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Fiction, 1980-2020. Wiley-Blackwell. (In Press)
    • Brooker, Joseph (2019) Raymond’s Fen. In: Harle, Matthew and Machin, James (eds.) Of Mud & Flame - A Penda’s Fen Sourcebook. Strange Attractor. ISBN 9781907222689.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2018) Jonathan Lethem. In: Eaglestone, D. and O'Gorman, R. (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Twenty-First Century Literary Fiction. Routledge Literature Companions. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9780415716048.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2018) Jonathan Coe's stories of sadness. In: Tew, P. (ed.) Jonathan Coe: Contemporary British Satire. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 35-50. ISBN 9781350027688.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2017) What James Joyce did in the war. In: Alam, F. and Ahmed, T. and Alam, Z. (eds.) The Great War and Our Mindscapes: Centenary Essays. Dhaka, Bangladesh: pp. 82-104.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2016) Around 2000: memoir as literature. In: Smyth, A. (ed.) A History of English Autobiography. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 374-387. ISBN 9781107078413.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2016) Involutions of the word: Lorrie Moore and Jonathan Lethem. In: D'Arcy, M. and Nilges, M. (eds.) The Contemporaneity of Modernism: Literature, Media, Culture. Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature. Abingdon, UK: Taylor and Francis. pp. 105-120. ISBN 9781138917033.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2015) Reanimating historical fiction. In: James, D. (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to British Fiction since 1945. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 160-176. ISBN 9781107562714.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2015) Fiction in a fictionalized society. In: Leggett, B. and Venezia, A. (eds.) Twenty-First Century Fiction. London, UK: Gylphi. pp. 1-9. ISBN 9781780240213.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2014) Reception history. In: Latham, S. (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Ulysses. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 19-32. ISBN 9781107073906.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2014) Ploughmen without land: Flann O'Brien and Patrick Kavanagh. In: Murphet, I. and McDonald, R. and Morrell, S. (eds.) Flann O’Brien and Modernism. London, UK: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781623568757.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2014) Thatcherism and literature. In: Tew, P. and Horton, E. and Wilson, L. (eds.) The 1980s: A Decade of Contemporary British Fiction - See more at: The Decades Series. London, UK: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781441126498.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2013) The art of offence: British literary censorship since 1971 (1971 - present day). In: Bradshaw, D. and Potter, R. (eds.) Prudes on the Prowl: Literature, Obscenity and Censorship in England, 1850 to the Present Day. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 179-207. ISBN 9780199697564.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2011) Myles’ tones. In: Baines, J. (ed.) 'Is it about a bicycle?' Flann O'Brien in the Twenty-First Century. Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts Press. pp. 17-31. ISBN 9781846822407.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2010) Irish Mimes: Flann O’Brien. In: Wright, J.M. (ed.) A Companion to Irish Literature. Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture. New York, U.S.: Wiley Blackwell. pp. 176-192. ISBN 9781405188098.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2010) Has the world changed or have I changed? The Smiths and the challenge of Thatcherism. In: Campbell, S. and Coulter, C. (eds.) Why Pamper Life's Complexities? Essays on the Smiths. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719078408.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2009) Post-war Joyce. In: McCourt, J. (ed.) James Joyce in Context. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 52-64. ISBN 9780521886628.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2007) Mind that crowd: Flann O'Brien's authors. In: Hadjiafxendi, K. and Mackay, P. (eds.) Authorship in Context: From the Theoretical to the Material. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 91-110. ISBN 9781403949011.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2007) "Remember Everything": things past in Station Island. In: Hall, J.D. and Bland Crowder, A. (eds.) Seamus Heaney: Poet, Critic, Translator. Literature & Performing Arts Collection 2007. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 155-171. ISBN 9780230003422.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2007) Remember everything: things past in station island. In: Bland Crowder, A. and Hall, J.D. (eds.) Seamus Heaney: Poet, Critic, Translator. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 155-171. ISBN 9780230206267.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2006) The middle years of Martin Amis. In: Mengham, Rod and Tew, Philip (eds.) British Fiction Today. London, UK; New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.. pp. 3-14. ISBN 826487319.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2005) The fidelity of theory: James Joyce and the rhetoric of belatedness. In: Nash, J. (ed.) Joyce's Audiences. European Joyce Studies. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi. pp. 201-221. ISBN 9789042011137.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2004) Shades of the eighties: The Colour of Memory. In: Phillips, L. (ed.) The Swarming Streets: Twentieth-Century Literary Representations of London. Costerus. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi BV. pp. 139-152. ISBN 90-420-1663-9.
    • Gearey, Adam (2004) The poetics of truth and reconciliation. In: Hanafin, Patrick and Gearey, Adam and Brooker, Joseph (eds.) Law and Literature: Current Legal Issues. Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell. pp. 38-60. ISBN 9781405119306.
    • Hanafin, Patrick (2004) Living on in law and literature. In: Hanafin, Patrick and Gearey, Adam and Brooker, Joseph (eds.) Law and Literature: Current Legal Issues. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. ISBN 9781405119306.
    • Hanafin, Patrick and Gearey, Adam and Brooker, Joseph (2004) Revitalising law and literature. In: Hanafin, Patrick and Gearey, Adam and Brooker, Joseph (eds.) Law and Literature: Current Legal Issues. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. ISBN 9781405119306.
    • Brooker, Joseph (2003) Larrygogan in space: Roddy Doyle’s global village. In: Laplace, P. and Tabuteau, E. (eds.) Cities on the Margin - On the Margin of Cities. Littérature et histoire des pays de langues européennes. Besancon, France: Presses Universitaires de Franche-Comté. pp. 201-215. ISBN 9782848670188.