Dr Sam Durrant

Dr Sam Durrant


I joined Leeds University as a Lecturer in 2000, after completing my doctoral degree at Queen's University Canada. I also hold degrees from University of Missouri-Columbia and Manchester University. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2009 and became an Associate Professor in 2018. I have held a wide range of roles in the School and currently lead the Critical Life Research Group 


  • Leader of Critical Life Research Group
  • Convenor of Postcolonial Literature core

Research interests

I am broadly interested in the relationships between literature, memory, race and community, particularly as they pertain to the fields of postcolonial studies and critical theory. I began my career focusing on the problems involved in memorialising the traumatic histories of racial oppression that continue to haunt our postcolonial era. These problems are the central concern of my first monograph Postcolonial Narrative and the Work of Mourning: J.M Coetzee, Wilson Harris and Toni Morrison (State University of New York Press, 2004).  Since then, I have continued to work on memory and trauma in postcolonial contexts. I co-edited Essays in Migratory Aesthetics with Catheirne Lord (Rodopi 2007) and following a research fellowship in Brussels, I co-edited The Future of Trauma Theory: Contemporary Literary and Cultural Criticism (Routledge 2014), together with Gert Beulens and Robert Eaglestone.

My interest in trauma has also taken in more practical/activist directions. In 2010 I set up a bibliotherapy group for refugees in conjunction with SOLACE, a local NGO. I published an article on our practice, entitled ‘Reading Asylum’, in Moving Worlds (12.2 2012). I now coordinate several groups across Leeds, led by doctoral students from the School of English. etails are avaliable at the Bibliotherapy Hub Leeds.  This project formed an Impact Case Study in REF 2014. 

I am currently working on two major research projects:  I am co-editing a large inter-disciplinary volume of essays on Refugee Studies: Contemporary Research Across the Humanities for EUP, together with Emma Cox, David Farrier, Lyndsey Stonebridge and Agnes Woolley, and working on a monograph provisionally entitled Re-inheriting the World: Animism, Mimesis and Contemporary African Literature which looks at the ways in whicht the way the African novel functions functions as a surrogate mode of ancestralisation in the wake of postcolonial modernity's drive to abolish such ties. This project draws on both the renewed interest in animism in anthroplogical and environmental circles and on early-mid 20th C work of the Frankfurt School (primarily Benjamin and Adorno) which linked animism to mimesis,  understood not as a representation of the world but as a rite of identification with the world. Related to this project is a journal special issue I am currently co-editing on 'Animism in a Planetary Frame' together with Philip Dickinson.

I have published articles on a variety of postcolonial writers but have written most extensively on the work of J.M. Coetzee.

My doctoral students tend to be equally interested in both literature and critical theory. Recent completed theses have focused on Michael Ondaatje and deconstruction; queer modes of belonging in postcolonial literature; cynical cosmopolitanism in Borges, Beckett and Coetzee; trauma and animism in African literature. Current doctoral students are working on:

  • The Creaturely Novel: Sebald, Coetzee and Devi
  • Human rights, biopolitics and literary form in the contemporary African novel
  • Professing the aesthetic in the era of the modern university 
  • Community as Philosophy in African Literature
  • Animism and Ecology in Southern African Literature
<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, University of Manchester
  • MA, University of Missouri-Columbia
  • PhD, Queen's University, Canada

Student education

At BA level, I convene the core module Postcolonial Literature and run two option modules. 'Disposable Lives?' focuses on contemporary African Literature and looks at what happens to the infrastructure of the novel when the infrastructure of the state has all but collapsed. 'Refugee Narratives' looks at a range of literature on refugees, starting with Jewish and Palestinian texts and then focusing in on more contemporary literature.

At MA Level I usually offer a module called 'The Magic of Mimesis', which looks at theories of mimesis from Plato and Aristotle through Freud , Benjamin and Adorno to contemprary anthropology.

I also teach on two interdisciplinary modules 'Creative Africas: Culture and the Arts in Modern Africa' and 'Vision and Narrative: Literature and the Visual Arts' .


Research groups and institutes

  • 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>