My background is in English literature but I have published on a variety of twentieth-century cultural forms and topics, among them American cold war culture, JFK, Harold Norse, Jack Kerouac, Tom Waits, Jeff Nuttall, William Burroughs, James Baldwin, film noir, jazz, Pentecostalism, 1960s British poetry, and 1960s transatlantic counter-culture and avant-garde writing.
Over the last ten years my research has focussed on the African American writer James Baldwin (1924-1987). In 2009 I edited A Historical Guide to James Baldwin (Oxford UP), a volume that explores the writer’s relationship to the civil rights movement, transatlantic culture, music, religion, and black queer writing, followed by James Baldwin (2011) for the series Writers and their Work. I co-edited (with Rich Blint) a special issue on Baldwin for African American Review (2013). My monograph, All Those Strangers: The Art and Lives of James Baldwin was published by Oxford UP in 2015. The book analyses the writer’s life and work against the radically transformative politics of his time, as well as exploring under-researched areas in Baldwin’s life and work—his relationship to the Left, his FBI files and the significance of Africa in his writing—while also contributing to wider discussions about post-war US culture. The book was reviewed in the New York Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement & African American Review, amongst other publications.
Conferences, Symposia & Exhibitions
In December 2014, I co-curated a two day event to commemorate and evaluate the centenary of William Burroughs. A review of the event, which was funded by the Arts Council, and which included talks and performances by C.P. Lee, Oliver Harris, Michael Horovitz, and others, can be found here.
Other projects include working with Jenny Barrett, Ian Scott, Alan Rice, and Jonathan Ward on a series of events in 2015 to mark the centenary of the contraversial film Birth of a Nation. The events included a public screening of DJ Spooky's Rebirth of a Nation, panel dicussions with artists, including Lubaina Himid, and several symposia.
Recent and Current Research
My recent research has focussed on avant-garde little magazines published between c. 1955-1980 and on avant-garde writers, with a particular interest in Alexander Trocchi, Jeff Nuttall, and William Burroughs, the subject of my current book.
I am the co-editor (with Jay Jeff Jones) of An Aesthetic of Obscenity an anthology of Jeff Nuttall's fiction, along with several articles on the writer (Beat Scene, PN Review, TLS). I am also the co-editor (again with Jay Jeff Jones), of a 50th anniversary edition of Jeff Nuttall's Bomb Culture.
Forthcoming work includes the foreword to a new edition of Brion Gysin Let the Mice In by Gysin and William Burroughs and a chapter titled "Beats, Black Culture and Bohemianism in mid-twentieth Century New York City" for the forthcoming Cambridge History of New York Literature.
I am helping to organise a day-long symposium, "The Artist of the Future Age: William Blake, Neo-Romanticism, Counter-Culture and Now," which will take place at the John Rylands Library (11 October, 2019).