Dr Dominic O'Key
In April 2019, I successfully gained my PhD in Comparative Literature. My doctoral research project, 'Creaturely Forms', investigates how three celebrated writers turned to the figure of the animal at the end of the twentieth century. I suggest that these writers – W. G. Sebald, J. M. Coetzee, and Mahasweta Devi – all differently say "no" to modernity's war against animals, and in doing so they glimpse less destructive ways in which humans might live with and alongside animality.
My PhD project was supervised by Dr Helen Finch and Dr Sam Durrant, and was conducted with the support of Prof Stuart Taberner's Leverhulme Trust Major Research Project "Traumatic Pasts, Cosmopolitanism, and Nation-Building in Contemporary German and South African Literature". My PhD research was fully funded by the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies and the Doctoral College.
Activities and engagement: I am an associate editor of the cultural studies and critical theory journal, parallax. Over the course of my PhD I have organised and convened a number of events. From 2015–2017 I convened the Creaturely Life reading group. In 2016/17 I co-directed Quilting Points, the interdisciplinary critical theory group. For this, Rachel Johnson and I explored the work of Hannah Arendt, and invited presentations from Profs. Simon Swift (Geneva), Patrick Hayden (St Andrews) and Lyndsey Stonebridge (East Anglia). I have also co-organised a number of workshops on World Literature and Memory Studies, including the WRoCAH-funded event World Against Globe: Reconceptualising World Literatures Today (April 2016); a joint workshop with Kings College London, Futures of Memory (Feb 2017), funded by the Leverhulme Trust; and, in May 2017, Ian Ellison and I hosted a one-day PGR conference on the future of studying W. G. Sebald, Beyond Sebald: New Trajectories in Sebald Studies, funded by the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies. In June 2018, I organised and hosted a conversation with journalist Daniel Trilling about borders, migration, and his recent book Lights in the Distance: Exile and Refuge at the Borders of Europe.
Animal studies at Leeds: I am a co-director of the Leeds Animal Studies Network and an active member of the Northern Animals collective. Caitlin Stobie and I organised the second meeting of the collective, Northern Animals #2: Animals and Borders. Hosted at the Leeds Museum's Discovery Centre, our workshop explored the concept of "borders" from an animal studies perspective. The workshop featured a store tour of the Discovery Centre’s collection of illegal and confiscated taxidermy, public engagement with New Wortley Community Centre's Men's Walking Group, and an evening reading by the South African author Henrietta Rose-Innes. This event was funded by the Institute of Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, the British Society for Literature and Science, International Writers at Leeds, and the School of English.
Recent conferences and workshops: I have presented research on literature, cinema and critical theory at numerous conferences and workshops. In reverse chronological order:
- 2019: Reading Zoos in the Age of the Anthropocene, Utrecht University; Maritime Animals, University of Kent and the National Maritime Museum, London; Animal Remains, University of Sheffield
- 2018: Comparative Literature Summer School: Principles, Practices, Perspectives, University of Kent; Archives of Resistance: Cosmopolitanism, Memory and World Literature, University of Leeds; Digital Borders: The Politics of Film Distribution in and Beyond Europe, University of Leeds
- 2017: The second annual Memory Studies Assocation conference, University of Copenhagen; University of London's Coetzee and the Archive; 'Contemporary Literature and the Archive' at American Comparative Literature Association Annual Convention
- 2016: Universität Würzburg's Texts, Animals, Environments: Zoopoetics and Environmental Poetics; Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre's workshop Confronting Difficult Pasts; Stockholms Universitet's workshop The Creaturely, The Human, The Global; Universiteit Gent's Questions of Scale in Contemporary Literature; Universität Kassel's Animal Biographies
- 2015: The University of Cumbria's Visualising the Animal; In October 2015 I was invited to the University of Manchester to discuss Werner Herzog's documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams. You can listen to this paper here.
- 2014: Reading Animals, University of Sheffield
Teaching and responsibilities:
I hold an Associate Fellowship from the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA), and have developed my teaching practice as a seminar tutor on various world and postcolonial literature modules. I have taught on Writing Critically (level 1), Poetry: Reading and Interpretation (level 1), Contemporary World Literature (level 3), and Postcolonial Literature (level 3).
- 2017–18: postgraduate rep for the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, together with co-reps Bashar Almaani, Nathan Brand and Souhaila Messaoudi.
- 2015–18: Mentor to undergraduates on the English and Comparative Literature degree programme.
My research revolves around how literature and cinema differently destabilise our understanding of the "human".
Guest editor of 'Animal Borderlands', a special issue of parallax (vol. 26, no. 2, June 2020)
'The Natural History of the Herring in W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn', in Literature and Meat Since 1900, ed. by Seán McCorry and John Miller (forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)
' "Entering Life": Literary De-extinction and the Archives of Life in Mahasweta Devi's "Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay, and Pirtha" ', in LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory (forthcoming, 2020)
'W. G. Sebald's Zoopoetics: Writing After Nature', in Texts, Animals, Environments, ed. by Frederike Middelhoff, Sebastian Schönbeck, Roland Borgands, Catrin Gersdorf (Freiburg: Rombach, forthcoming 2019)
'Postscript, Posthuman: Werner Herzog's "Crocodile" at the End of the World', in Animal Biographies, ed. by André Krebber and Mieke Roscher (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), pp. 185-203. You can also listen to me discuss this paper on the Knowing Animals podcast here.
Essays and Reviews
'Writing Between Species: Yoko Tawada's Memoirs of a Polar Bear', 3:AM Magazine, 2017
'Curiosity and Refusal: Werner Herzog's Late Documentaries', The Cinematologists, 2017
Find my Academia profile here.
- PhD Comparative Literature
- MA Critical and Cultural Theory
- BA (Hons) English Language and Literature (International)
Research groups and institutes
- Centre for World Literatures
- Literary studies
- Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies
- Critical Life Research Group
- Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute