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Dr James Hellings

Dr James Hellings
  • Dissertation module convenor
  • Philosophies & Theories of Art module convenor
  • Studio teaching
  • Exams Officer

Areas of interest

James has research interests in Marxian-inflected histories and theories of modern and contemporary art, focusing on the philosophical works of Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Jacques Rancière. Other research interests include:

  • the politics/poetics of post-Kantian aesthetic theory
  • the Frankfurt School of critical theory
  • alternative or resistant forms of popular culture

James' first monograph, Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory (Hampshire: Palgrave, 2014/16 pbk), offers a comprehensive, critical, and accessible account of Theodor W. Adorno's aesthetic theory of art from a contemporary perspective. David Ryan's review, published in Art Monthly, observed that 'one senses throughout that Hellings is testing his ideas and critical persuasions through, and with, Adorno, which is illuminating in the light of his rather good discussion of subjectivity and objectivity within both aesthetic theory and art making in general.' According to Ryan, James 'makes Adorno's thought vivid for the present, especially in his attempts to think through contemporary artistic and political practices.' James has since been working on his second monograph, which is under contract with Bloomsbury, entitled Adorno and Film: Thinking in Images. James has published a number of articles and chapters on Adorno et al., in; Telos (New York), New German Critique (Duke University), Alexander Kluge-Jahrbuch (University of North Carolina), Oxford University Press, BFI/Bloomsbury, Pontcerq (France), Spector Books (Germany), Artwords Press, Café Gallery Projects and Eastside Projects. James has also given talks at the Association for Art History (Glasgow and Open universities), Eastside Projects, European University of St. Petersburg, Royal College of Art, Université Rennes II, Tate Modern, and the University of Nottingham. In the autumn of 2021 James was the first recipient of the Association for Art History / the Ampersand Foundation art history residency award.  

Postgraduate supervision

James welcomes research proposals which address his areas of interest.

PhD External Examiner:

Daniel Neofetou (2018) Eyes in the Heat: The Question Concerning Abstract Expressionism, with Professor Michael Newman, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Paul Ingram (2019) Adorno, Dada, and the Philistine: The Immanent Negation of the Institution of Art with Dr Sven Lütticken, Birkbeck, University of London

PhD Internal Examiner:

Avi Feldman (2018), After the Law: Towards Judicial-Visual Activism, with Professor Nora Sternfeld, Reading School of Art, University of Reading.

Tommaso Sperreta (2024) From the Logic of the Lure to the Force of the Erotic: Cruising a Personal AIDS Video Archive From a Curatorial Perspective with Professor Helena Reckitt, Reading School of Art, University of Reading

PhD Supervision Completion:

Katerina Valdivia Bruch (2024) Rethinking Conceptualism: The Avant-Garde, Activism and Politics in Latin American Art


James received a First-Class hons degree in Fine Art, before working in the Library and the Department of Prints and Drawings - both at the British Museum. James received a Distinction in his MA in Modern Art History and a PhD (without revision) at Goldsmiths College, University of London. James was awarded full funding for both his MA and PhD, a gift for which he is eternally grateful. James was awarded his PhD in 2008 (examined by Profs Peter Hallward and Adrian Rifkin), and he has since been teaching the history and theory of modern and contemporary art to art students (at Goldsmiths College, Birmingham School of Art, Camberwell College of Arts, and Reading University).

Selected publications

James's first book, Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory, was recently published in paperback by Palgrave Macmillan. James's book received a favoruable, and unsolicited, review in Art Monthly.

James's forthcoming second book explores film, contemporary artists' film and moving image, in relation to Adorno's aesthetic theory and more recent writing on film and the image.


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