Dr Jay Prosser

Dr Jay Prosser


  • MA Programme Leader, Creative Writing, Critical Life
  • Officer for Equality and Inclusion

Research interests

As Reader in Humanities, my research interests are eclectic and expansive.   What drives me is a nexus of the self and the real best summed up by this challenge: How do I live? My grounds for exploring the question have become less personal but all the more urgent. 

My first book, Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality (Columbia University Press, 1998), looked at transsexual autobiographies and showed how the figure of transgender was pivotal to the queer theory emerging at the time. Not only the first presentation of transsexuality's 'body narratives,' Second Skins also returned to canonical texts. This led to Palatable Poison: Critical Perspectives on The Well of Loneliness (Columbia University Press, 2002), a coedition, with Laura Doan, in which essays classic and new debated the kind of narrative Radclyffe Hall's novel is. My work on body narratives then took me in American literature to John Updike's textured writing and the matter of race. I have contemporary interests and have edited American Fiction of the 1990s (Routledge, 2008), whose essays treat American writing of the fin-de-millenium in light of New American Studies.

My interest in visuality, which began with transsexual representation, drew me particularly to photography: the still visual most often thought of as a slice of the real. My book on photography, Light in the Dark Room: Photography and Loss (Minnesota University Press, 2004), settled on moments when photography has allowed realisation into loss. I have also written essays on photographers who interweave the autobiographical, including Nan Goldin and Gillian Wearing. As part of a collective of which I was leader but above all student, I considered photography's implication in atrocity: relief or repetition?  This  British Academy-sponsored international collaboration -- between photographers, news editors, museum curators, artists, academics and NGOs --  resulted in the co-edited collection Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis (Reaktion Books, 2012), published in support of the work of Amnesty International; talks webcast @ http://www.photographyandatrocity.leeds.ac.uk/

I have travelled with my interests in autobiography also. My last big writing project, just completed, is a family memoir, which is also cultural history, centring on the Baghdadi Jewish diaspora,  and their encounter (and intermarraige) with the Chinese, in Southeast Asia.  I am hoping that Empire's Loving Strangers: Journeys Through an Asian-Jewish Camphowood Chest will be out within the next year.  Relatedly, I also led an AHRC research network on Ottoman Cosmopolitanism, an extensive collaboration between academics, artists, musicians, gastronomists and writers which sought to intervene in contemporary tensions by looking at transcultural exchanges in the former Ottoman Empire.  Our resarch on Ottoman Transcultural Memories was published in a special issue of the journal Memory Studies.

Currently I am immersed in the Cecil Roth archive at the University of Leeds, working in particular on Roth's extrraordinary engagement with post-Holocaust Salonica, with some of my research already published and new material forthcoming.  Together with Eva Frojmovic and located in the Centre for Jewish Studies, I have been invovled in a new collaborative research project, supported by Rothschild-Hanadiv funding, which aims to open up the Roth Collection and examine Roth as historian and collector. 

<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>


  • PhD English, City University of New York, Graduate School, October 1996
  • MA, English, City University of New York, Graduate School, 1992
  • BA, English, 1st Class, University of London, Westfield College, 1988

Professional memberships

  • Modern Languages Assocation
  • British Association of Jewish Studies
  • International Association of Auto/Biography
  • Jewish Historical Society of England

Student education

At MA level I teach criticial theory, life wriitng and creative writing.  At undergraduate level, I teach a course on reading and writing family memoir. 

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Jewish Studies
  • Critical Life Research Group
  • Creative Writing at Leeds

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>