Dr Denis Flannery

Dr Denis Flannery


I am currently working on The Cambridge Companion to David Bowie.


  • Director of Taught Postgraduate Programmes

Research interests

I have teaching and research interests in various areas of writing, culture and theory - namely American Literature, Cinema (especially the work of David Fincher and Derek Jarman), Victorian Literature, Twentieth-Century and Contemporary Literature and Eighteenth-Century Literature, Henry James, European Theatre, gender studies. queer theory and Irish Studies.

My first monograph was Henry James: A Certain Illusion (Ashgate Publishing, 2000) and my second, On Sibling Love, Queer Attachment and American Writing, also from Ashgate, was published in 2007.  2016 saw the appearance of Alan Hollinghurst: Writing Under the Influence, co-edited with Michele Mendelssohn (Manchester University Press)

Henry James has been foundational for my work in many different ways. James featured prominently in my book On Sibling Love and I have published on the figure of apostrophe and its relationship to mourning in recent James-fixated fiction by writers like Alan Hollinghurst as well as on the relationship between devotion and queer subjectivity in James's short stories. Over the last few years  I have been writing on the relationship between Henry James and a number of different figures, some of whom we might expect to be connected to the Master, some of whom we might not. These include Robert Baden-Powell (looking at James's The Art of the Novel and  Baden-Powell's  contemporaneous Scouting for Boys), Judith Butler,  Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, film director Todd Haynes and David Bowie.  Since 2008 I have been looking at Ireland in James, how it was for him an object of anxious derision and tentative curiosity, as well as being a source of inspiration. This work freshly considers the relationship between genre and Jamesian internationalism. Its major focus is on the divided status James confers on the occupants, émigrés, and writing of Ireland. James barely acknowledges Ireland as a site of origin and he sometimes figures it as an object of repugnance. Yet values that are foundational to James's sense of ethically validated subjectivity - autonomy, idealism, and an emphasis on non-instrumental subjectivity - are repeatedly connected with Ireland in his fiction, his critical writing and his drama. This project explores this contradiction by concentrating on the forgotten Irish aspects of some of James's best-known texts and through readings of some of his neglected fiction. It also considers historical questions such as the Irish provenance of the James family, the haunting presence of the Great Famine in his most celebrated writing, his relationship to figures such as Parnell and Wilde and his ongoing cultural presence in twenty-first century Ireland.

On Sibling Love, Queer Subjectivity and American Writing responded to the ways in which queer theory has both consistently refused to countenance the importance of sibling relationships to queer attachment the same time that it is haunted by images, anecdotes and metaphors of fraternal and sororal intimacy. The book opens with a consideration of this problem in queer theory and, in its first part, goes on to consider topics such as the relationship between sibling presence and animal life, sibling desire, taboo and literary form, and the role of siblings in queer visibility. This first part focuses on nineteenth-century American writing with a particular emphasis on Herman Melville and Henry James. The book then moves on to consider some postmodern manifestations of these same topics in writing by authors such as Cormac McCarthy, Jamaica Kincaid and Chuck Palahniuk as well as film-makers like Jennie Livingston and David Fincher.

Cinema and visual culture have played an important part in my other work which has looked, for example, at Fincher's 1995 film Seven in terms of queer theory and more recently at the role of the pair in Robert Mapplethorpe's photography.But  my more recent work has focused on Theatre, Irish Studies and creative writing. My work on theatre concentrates on  the Dutch Theatre company International Theatre Amsterdam (ITA).  In 2014 I pu7blished  I a major article about TGA's production of Tony Kushner's Angels in America paying  attention to the 'presence' of David Bowie's music and persona in their reading of those plays. This work has coincided with a major upsurge of interest in the work of David Bowie, most notably with exhibitions in London, Leeds and the release of The Next Day, Bowie's first album in ten years. Responding to this renewed interest, I gave, in July 2013, a public lecture at Leeds' White Cloth Gallery entitled "Writing David Bowie" as part of their exhibition of photographs of the singer by Brian Duffy and have recently been interviewed by the BBC about my undergraduate module Bowie, Reading, Writing. 

Recent publications include an essay on ITA's producion  of  The Fountainhead, directed by Ivo van Hove and based on the novel by Ayn Rand,  and  a major article on Ernie O'Malley, one of the great 'heroes' of Irish anti-colonial resistance and decolonization. . Finally, I am in the process of completing, in collaboration with my father (who was born in Tipperary in 1919), a memoir of his life there in the 1920s and the 1930s.

I teach across a wide range of American and English literatures and would welcome PhD applications from anyone broadly interested in the kinds of questions my own projects are asking.

Current and past research students include MAs and PhDs on Food and Writing in Afro-American culture; the Palimpsest and the Representation of Identity in American Fiction; Henry James, Impressionism and the Public Sphere; Tony Kushner & Legacy , Alan Hollingurst and the Vitality of Influence, Masculinity and Images of the Astronaut; Gender, Sexuality and Modernist Magazines. 

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • BA (NUI), MA (NUI) D. Phil (Oxon)

Student education

I teach across a wide range of undergraute modules at Levels 1, 2 and 3 and at MA level. 

Topics covered include the Essay as a Genre, American Literature since 1900, Henry James, George Eliot, Love Stories, the Literary Representation of Teachers and Teaching, David Bowie, Theories of Temporality. 

Research groups and institutes

  • American Studies Research Group
  • Critical Life Research Group
  • Literary studies

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>