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BA (Hons); PhD; SFHEA
Department of English and Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+44 (0)1865 483163
Tonge 412a, Gipsy Lane Campus
Dan completed his PhD, J.G. Farrell: Towards a Postmodern Fiction at Royal Holloway College, University of London in 1996. After taking up posts at Kingston University and Liverpool John Moores University, he joined Brookes in 2002 as a specialist in contemporary writing. He teaches in all aspects of Twentieth and Twenty-First Century literature and convenes the Contemporary Literature and Dissertation modules. He has published widely in the area of post-1945 British writing and is general editor of the Contemporary British Novelists series (published by Manchester University Press).
Supervisor for MA dissertations on Twentieth and Twenty-First Century literature and culture.
Dan would be interested in supervising MA and PhD projects on post-1945 British prose; George Orwell, Graham Swift, David Mitchell, W.G. Sebald, British fiction1980-2010,the cultural politics of madness and mental health, twenty-first century culture.
Dan Lea is Professor of Contemporary Literature. He teaches and researches primarily on post-1945 writing and is currently writing a book on authencity in 21st century literature.
Follow Dan's research at https://oxfordbrookes.academia.edu/DanielLea
Dan’s principal research interests are:
Cancer is a disease for which the English language reserves some of its most sinister epithets: cancer is said to ‘devour’, ‘ruin’, ‘ravage’, and ‘deform’, and to relentlessly consume flesh with insatiable rapacity. Conceived of as an unknowable and uncontrollable force from the outside, cancer is paradoxically created within the cancer subject’s own body, a body which profoundly questions the comfortable separation of the human from the animal. For many writing of their experiences of the disease, the ramifications can be multi-faceted: robbed of faith in the body’s willingness to bend to regulation, objectified by economically straitened health bureaucracies, trapped in the headlights of mortality, unable to find adequate means for conveying contradictory emotional registers, and disabled by others’ fear of the abject, these individuals often understand their subjectivity as inhabiting the liminal space between the human and the creaturely. This essay explores the ways in which cancer subjects represent the processes of defamiliarisation that diagnosis often initiates through three recent autobiographical accounts of men coming to terms with their incurable cancers. Philip Gould’s When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone (2012), Christopher Hitchens’ Mortality (2012), and Tom Lubbock’s Until Further Notice I Am Alive (2012) are autopathographies that give utterance to experiences of subjectivity that are increasingly compromised due to the effects of illness and the knowledge of the irreversibility of the cancer subject’s condition. Through examining the writers’ use of creaturely metaphors to describe both the nature and the effects of their cancers, this essay argues that in an age of advanced medical intervention, the language we use to describe cancer still reveals potent anxieties about the exceptionality of the human and the proximity of the animal.
In Illness as Metaphor, Susan Sontag claims that cancer is the perfect metaphorical descriptor for late-capitalism’s unbridled consumption and wild proliferation. Cancer is a disease she suggests that disdains order; it defies the reason of science, and in so doing, accurately reflects the decentred subject of contemporary philosophy and politics. The irrationality of the disease inhibits narrativisation, imbuing the stories we tell about it with an anxiety that often manifests itself in the use of metaphors of wars, battles, invasions and survivorship. In the realm of fiction, B.S. Johnson’s experimental anti-novel The Unfortunates (1969) stands as one attempt to represent the arbitrariness of cancer and its ability to deconstruct the hermeneutic reliability of narrative. Famously published as a collection of twenty-seven independent sections which the novel details the stream of consciousness of its narrator as he meditates on the death from cancer of his close friend, Tony. Unable to make sense of this death in any linear or consequential manner, the text reflects in the manner (and limitations) of its construction not just the randomness of illness, but also the proliferation of empty stories that are produced to explain it. Through close examination of Johnson’s representation of the male body in illness, this essay explores the impossibility of controlling meaning when it comes to the great unknown of cancer. It centrally address the obliquity with which the diseased and malfunctioning male body has been represented, and suggests that the narrative wreckage that constitutes Johnson’s experiment is less a localised strategy and more a textual microcosm of the collective despair at the irresistible profusion of cancer.
Contemporary culture is caught in a representational bind: fascinated by - and yet tired of - its tendency towards artifice and involution, whilst simultaneously attracted to - and yet sceptical of - the idea of the authentic. The hermeneutical confusion brought about by this self-identity crisis has given rise to a semiotic indistinction around artificiality and authenticity, leaving the observer trapped not by their bipolarity, but caught within their layers as they interleave. This essay explores the ramifications of this through an examination of the relationship between Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) and Will Self’s Dorian: An Imitation (2002). Identifying the imitative intent of Self’s rewrite as problematic, the essay situates the twentieth-century’s shift towards an ethic of private authenticity over sincerity as indicative of a significant change in self and social understanding. However the demands and desires of late-capitalism have made it increasingly difficult to isolate what that authenticity might mean, and what credibility can be attached to it. By examining Self’s portrayal of Princess Diana’s life and death, it is argued that for all its importance as a signifier of value, contemporary authenticity is hopelessly caught within the representational order of the artificial.
This essay examines the discursive interpenetration of trauma and celebrity culture, and, through an examination of the multiple killer in recent British writing and culture, locates the interest in both in the alienating otherness of the Real. Reading the work of Gordon Burn, David Peace and Rupert Thomson, the essay explores the semiotic crossover between the celebrity and the murderer as contemporary icons and situates both as symptoms of a pathological rewriting of subjectivity. The dynamics of trauma as a means of asserting a wounded and therefore meaningful self are addressed, and the narrative potential of repetition is highlighted. Underpinning the discussion is the figure of Myra Hindley whose image has proven a potent resource for artists and writers seeking to explore the uncomfortable attraction-in-repulsion of the "celebrity" murderer.
Ali Smith’s fiction demands of its reader some basic requirements. Firstly, one must be the bearer of a sense of humour, and, if possible, a sense of the ludicrous, for we are everywhere treated to a stream of in-jokes and puns that reflect their author’s fondness for both whimsy and surreality. Secondly, one must give up any reliance on the conventions of narrative realism for though her works are often explicitly set in recognisably contemporary worlds, they rarely limit themselves to the visible parameters of social reality, preferring audacious imaginative flight over intricate description or plot trajectory. Finally, one needs to tune emotionally to the pitch of writing that while fearsomely clever is also hauntingly affecting. Smith does not manipulatively wring from her reader an emotional reaction to the heart-breaking concerns with loss, vulnerability, grief, and loneliness about which she often writes, rather through echoes and associations one comes obliquely to appreciate and empathise with the difficult work of being human that Smith captures. Armed with these prerequisites the reader can feel prepared to tackle one of the most innovative, thoughtful, and witty writers of her generation.