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Stephen Thomson

  • I convene the module 'Family Romances: Genealogy, Identity, and Imposture in the Nineteenth-century Novel'.

Areas of interest

I am particularly interested in ways in which ideas of agency and responsibility shape, and are shaped by, literary form and aesthetics. My recent work on the figure of the sleepwalker - someone who does things without conscious decision - examines these questions with regard to a number of topics, including the narrative role of servants in the nineteenth century, the spectres of history in W.G. Sebald, and the role of the culture critic as opponent of totalitarianism in the 1930s.

My work is interdisciplinary, examining the meeting points of science (mainly physiology), social science, and literature. It also has a strong comparative element, dealing with French and German, and to a lesser extent Italian and Spanish, letters.

Postgraduate supervision

I have supervised three PhD theses to successful completion.

I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students in any area of nineteenth-or twentieth-century literature, particularly relating to ideas and problems of modernity, politics, and agency; and dealing with literary theory, especially Derrida. I would also be interested in projects with a comparative element, particularly relating to twentieth-century European literature.


I have contributed to courses in:

  • 19th-CenturyAmerican Literature
  • Modern Poetry and Fiction
  • Literary Theory
  • Film

Selected publications

  • 'Jeu d'ecarts: Derrida's Descartes', Oxford Literary Review 39:2 (December 2017)
  • 'Ancillary Narratives: Maids, Sleepwalking, and Agency in Nineteenth-centry Literature and Culture, Textual Practice 29:1 (2015), pp. 91-110Textual Practice 29:1 (2015), pp. 91-110
  • 'Sleepwalking Certainties: Agency, Aesthetics, and Incapacity in W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz and Hermann Broch's The Sleepwalkers', Comparative Literature 65:2 (Spring 2013)
  • '"A tangle of tatters': ghosts and the busy nothing in Footfalls', in Beckett and nothing: Trying to understand Beckett ed. by Daniela Caselli (MUP, 2010), pp.65-83


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