Dr Philip Dickinson

Lecturer in Postcolonial Studies and World Literature


I work in postcolonial literatures and theory in comparative frames, with interests in African and especially southern African writing (J. M. Coetzee for instance, or the Zimbabwean novelist Yvonne Vera), emergent interests in Palestinian writing (such as in a recent essay on Raja Shehadeh), and I've written and presented on Caribbean writing as well. I've published recent articles in Interventions, ariel, The Cambridge Companion to the Postcolonial Novel (ed. Ato Quayson), and a lead essay on Coetzee and affect in Mosaic (click here for Dawne McCance's introduction).

My first book, Romanticism and Aesthetic Life in Postcolonial Writing (forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillan), explores the afterlives of Romantic aesthetics in a group of postcolonial writers now central to the constitution of the postcolonial canon, in a range of modes and locations, including J. M. Coetzee, Derek Walcott, and Gayatri Spivak. The book has two related ambitions: first, to develop an account of the migratory power of Romanticism from a postcolonial vantage point that challenges existing accounts of the relationship between colonial and postcolonial corpuses, and second, to explicate -- through attention to its engagement with Romanticism -- the postcolonial concern with aesthetic life, understood as an experiential domain involving literary tradition, colonial and environmental history, landscape, and the immediacy of the phenomenal world.

Increasingly my research explores the intersections between postcolonial literary studies and the environmental humanities. My new book project is organised around the figure of enclosure, which I read as a globalizing logic of objectification towards land, resources, and human and animal bodies, and as a basis for a dominant form of aesthetic and phenomenological orientation towards space and environment. The project exhibits my interest in the relationship between material histories of power and literary and cultural production, and at the same time tries to mobilise enclosure not "just" as a history but also as a figure for thinking (in comparative and sometimes speculative ways). The book considers (for example) Coetzee’s interrogation of the plaasroman (farm novel) in apartheid South Africa in one chapter, and the literary genealogy of the checkpoint in Israel-Palestine in another, but finally it argues for our need, in the epoch of the anthropocene, to imagine our common “enclosedness” in a shared world with no outside — or none upon which we can stand.

I joined Lancaster in May 2017 from Columbia University, where I held a postdoctoral fellowship funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). I completed my PhD at the University of Toronto, where my thesis won the A. S. P. Woodhouse Prize, and I hold BA and MA degrees from the University of Leeds.

In 2017/18 I'm teaching on the Romanticism and Contemporary Literature core modules, and a half unit in semester two on C21st World Literature.