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Peter Fifield

  • Overview



    Peter came to Birkbeck in 2015, following research and teaching positions at St John's College, Oxford, and the University of York. 

    His research interests include modernist writing and medical humanities in its many guises, historical and contemporary. He is particularly interested in the diverse cultural uses of physical illness and its treatment, and would be pleased to receive expressions of interest on this topic from prospective PhD students. His most recent book is Modernism and Physical Illness (OUP, 2020)

    He has published widely, including on the work of Samuel Beckett, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, and Winifred Holtby.

    His first book was about Samuel Beckett and the ethicist Emmanuel Levinas, (Palgrave, 2013), , and he remains interested in Beckett's work, and especially its intersections with illness and medicine, and with philosophy.

    His current research is constructing a module of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, , comprising a genetic edition of Beckett's late drama. A separate, nascent project looks at inter-war best-sellers.

    Apart from liking books, he is a keen, sometimes obsessive cyclist, and an accomplished eater.


    • My latest book is:
      Modernism and Physical Illness: Sick Books


    Web profiles

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Director MA Modern and Contemporary Literature
    • Co-Director MA Medical Humanities: Bodies, Cultures, and Ideas

    Professional memberships

    • British Association of Modernist Studies

    • Board Member, London Modernism Seminar

    • Modernist Studies Association

    • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

  • Research


    Research interests

    • Modernism
    • Illness, medicine, and Medical Humanities
    • Samuel Beckett
    • Inter-war Best-sellers

    Research Centres and Institutes

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I am currently supervising five PhD students, alongside various colleagues in the departments of English and History.

    Harry Acton is working on D. H. Lawrence and reading

    Lise Grønvold is working on contemporary feminist illness writing

    Emily Best is working on Samuel Beckett's radio texts

    Fiona Buck is working on the modernist salons of New York

    Pedro Ferreira is working on the cultural dissemination of John Bowlby's writing

    As of 2020, I have supervised three doctoral research projects to completion: Dr Vicky Sparrow, Dr Laura Cushing-Harries, and Dr Fran Lock.

    Current doctoral researchers


    Doctoral alumni



    Teaching modules

    • Doing English (AREN208Z4)
    • Reading and Writing the Contemporary (AREN223S7)
    • Modernism and its Others (AREN253S6)
    • Language Matters (ENHU122S7)
    • Critical Entanglements in the Medical Humanities (SSHC483S7)
    • Methods: Medicine, Culture, Text (SSHC484S7)
  • Publications




    Book Section