Professor John Schad


Research Interests

My main areas of research are: post-criticism, or critical-creative writing; life-writing; play-writing; modernism; Victorian writing; literary theory; and the relationship between religion and literature. These interests are reflected in my current book project, Ship of Names, which works on and around the figure of Walter Benjamin's estranged son Stefan, and my previous work - both my authored books: Derrida|Benjamin. Two Plays for the Stage [with Fred Dalmasso] (Palgrave), Paris Bride. A Modernist Life (Punctum), Hostage of the Word: Readings into Writings 1993-2013 (Sussex), The Late Walter Benjamin (Bloomsbury), Someone Called Derrida: An Oxford Mystery (Sussex), Arthur Hugh Clough (Northcote House), Queer Fish: Christian Unreason from Darwin to Joyce (Sussex), Victorians in Theory (Manchester UP), and The Reader in the Dickensian Mirrors (Macmillan); and my edited books: Dickens Refigured (Manchester UP); Thomas Hardy, A Laodicean (Penguin); Writing the Bodies of Christ (Routledge); Crrritic! (Sussex); and life.after.theory (Continuum). This last book included new interviews with Jacques Derrida, Frank Kermode, Toril Moi, and Christopher Norris. I have also been General Editor for a series of experimental monographs called critical inventions - the series includes titles by Thomas Docherty, Roger Ebbatson, J.Hillis Miller, Kevin Mills, David Punter, Michael Wood and Jean-Michel Rabaté.

My recent book Paris Bride. A Modernist Life (2020) is an experimental biograhy mixing history, archive, fact, fiction, mystery, and a play of voices and (mis)readings. It begins in July 1905, in Paris, with a young woman, a bride, who becomes Marie Schad. In April 1924, however, in London, Marie Schad is declared to be no more - indeed, to never have been, and returns to France. Paris Bride pursues this no-woman in a wild attempt to glimpse her face in the modernist crowd. With increasing desperation the pages of Stephane Mallarmé, Oscar Wilde, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Louis Aragon, André Breton, and Walter Benjamin are all ransacked for traces of Marie. What is pieced together is an experimental life - a properly modernist life, a life that, by its very obscurity, lives the obscure life of modernism itself.

My 2012 book, The Late Walter Benjamin, takes the form of a novel but concerns a man on a post-war council estate near London who thinks or says he is the late Walter Benjamin and who only ever uses the words of Benjamin. The opening scenes were read and discussed on BBC Radio 3's The Verb in January 2009, the book was launched in June 2012 at the Watford Palace Theatre, and further readings were given as part of the ‘Ideas Allowed’ series in Hull and the Greenbelt Festival. I then adapted the novel for the stage, as 'Nowhere Near London,' and received funding for a professional staging of a 60-minute version of the play at the Watford Palace Theatre Drama Studio in July 2014. In July 2016 there was a 90-minute version of the play professionally performed in the Palace Theatre main auditorium.

My previous book, Someone Called Derrida (Sussex, 2007), was a novelistic combination of traditional archival scholarship with memoir, investigative history, detective fiction, and Oxford; it is, in a sense, a book that explores the space between critical and creative writing. I received funding to adapt (with Frederic Dalmasso) Someone for the stage, as 'Last Train to Oxford,' with professional performances at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford Playhouse, Duke's Theatre Lancaster, the Ortus, London, the Hay-on-Wye HowTheLightInGetsIn Festival and the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge – see

In June 2009 I organised a conference called 'The Critic as Artist / The Artist as Critic' which sought to explore what it might mean to fuse literary criticism and creative writing - or, if you will, the work of the critic and that of the artist. This led to my co-edited book Crrritic! Sighs, Cries, Lies, Insults, Outbursts, Hoaxes, Disasters, Letters of Resignation, and Various Other Noises Off in These the First and Last Days of Literary Criticism (2011). This was the concluding volume in my critical inventions series and included new writing by Jonathan Dollimore, Steven Connor, Mark Ford, Geoffrey Hartman, Esther Leslie, et al as well as a prize-winning essay by Kevin Mills. My contribution to this volume was called 'GodotOnSea,' which focuses on the 1956 production of Waiting for Godot at The Grand Theatre Blackpool. The opening of this chapter was read and discussed on BBC Radio 3's The Verb in April 2011.

In 2011 I completed a dramatic monologue called 'Queerest Book' that revolves around Robert Bridges' 1918 edition of The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins; this was published as a guest piece in Literature and Theology in 2012 with a preface by Mark Knight. In 2012 I completed another critical-creative text called 'Our Lives, Mrs Dalloway’ which was read and discussed on BBC R3’s ‘The Verb’ in June 2012 and appeared in my book, Hostage of the Word: Readings into Writings, 1993-2013 (Sussex). I subsequently completed a book entitled John Schad in Conversation (De La Salle University Press) as part of a series including conversations with Christopher Norris, Jonathan Dollimore, Catherine Belsey, and Derek Attridge. I then co-edited (with Simon Palfrey (Oxford), Katherine Craik (Oxford Brookes) and Joanna Picciotto (Berkeley)), a series of new critical-creative books called Beyond Criticism – Boiler House Press is now the publisher.

In 2010 I applied successfully to Leverhulme for funding to bring Simon Critchley of the New School, New York, to Lancaster as a Leverhulme Visiting Professor in Michaelmas Term 2012

I recently completed almost five years as Research Director, followed by three as Head of Department.

Having supervised several PhD students to successful completion, I welcome research proposals in any of my areas of interest, including creative writing. Two of my current PhDs are AHRC funded, and one of my recent PhDs had both a Lancaster Scholarship and an SSHRC Doctoral Award from Canda.

Reviews /Responses:


  • 'Schad ... the avatar of critical-creatve writing' (Oliver Tearle in T. E. Hulme and Modernism)
  • 'John Schad's critical-creative writing is synonomus with the genre' (CounterText, 2021)
  • 'the extraordinary works of John Schad seamlessly blend memoir with fiction, philosophy, literary theory, and criticism" (Offshoot: Contemeporary Life-Writing, 2018)
  • ‘Critical essays rarely merit description as creative acts , one exception to that rule is the work of John Schad’ (Mark Knight in Literature and Theology)
  • ‘the modern theoretical re-evaluation of literature has given way to a renewed interest in religious questions. The religiously inflected critical inquiry of writers such as Geoffrey Hartman, Luce Irigaray, J. Hillis Miller, Terry Eagleton, and John Schad has developed this tradition.’ (The Blackwell Companion to the Bible in English Literature).

Paris Bride

  • ‘A mesmerising book... The journey to the very last page is nothing short of electrifying’ Los Angeles Review of Books

    ‘Hold on tight to Marie. Marie invites you to the great family romance of modernism. Gliding and bouncing from T. S. Eliot to Walter Benjamin via the Paris of the Surrealists, John Schad shares painful family secrets and ends up sketching a whole constellation of modernity. A dazzling tour de force!’ (Jean-Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania, American Academy of Arts and Sciences).

Derrida | Benjamin. Two Plays for the Stage

  • ‘Readers of philosophy will adore these witty and informative plays based on the thoughts of two of the most influential thinkers of the past century: Jacques Derrida and Walter Benjamin. Soon, you may even find yourself producing and acting in them.’ (Graham Harmon, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at SCI-Arc in Los Angeles).
  • 'The genius of these plays is to eject the philosopher's page-bound words into vocal performance, thus ripping them from contexts, splicing them in new ones, and refracting them amidst the whirls of large-scale historical events, and in dialogue with the intimate dramas of everyday love and loss, of people, contexts, memory and minds. That is to return them to life, as philosophy should be.' (Esther Leslie, Professor of Aesthetics, Birkbeck - University of London)
  • ‘Haunting has no limits’, a character says in one of these two remarkable plays. The implication, as the wit and agility of the works richly show, is that no one ever dies and no present moment is ever free of the past. This could be a troubling view and the plays certainly have their moments of darkness and terror. But they are fundamentally comedies, made out of theory as Kafka made them out of theology. To read them is both to stage them in the mind and to long for actors and a material stage.’ (Michael Wood Charles Barnwell Straut Class of 1923 Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Emeritus, Princeton University))
  • ‘In Derrida and Benjamin a welter of quotation calls philosophy back to its origin in the complexities, ambiguities, and grubbiness of a ‘verbatim world’ – Times Literary Supplement

John Schad in Conversation

  • ‘punchily short, but always to the point, to many up-to-the-minute critical points in fact; Schadian points, of course, the point or points where the wonderful Schadian critical train… has got to.’ - Valentine Cunningham, The Glass.
  • ‘The conversation brings out a genuine quickening - an urgency and enlivening - of the thought and work of John Schad.’ (Thomas Docherty)
  • ‘John Schad’s work bubbles with tangents, provocations and elegant formulations. It is heartfelt, critically astute, teasing, trenchant. In interview, Schad draws us further into his extraordinary environment of critical invention. If criticism is autobiography, this interview operates properly with the anecdotal form.’ (Esther Leslie)
  • “Listen to John Schad: he has a unique voice, whose inimitable grain echoes as he walks along the haunted corridors of academia. Haunted by what? By God, by Godot, by his Father? A gentle ghost himself, he ushers in a new Surrealism to literary studies.” (Jean-Michel Rabaté)

Hostage of the Word

  • In this compelling mixture of criticism, poetry, life-writing, theology and theoretical reflection, John Schad shows himself once again to be among the most illuminatingly unconventional and boldly experimental critics of our time.’ (Terry Eagleton).
  • ‘Hostage of the Word gives us much more than a new historical vantage-point on earlier writing, but constitutes an outstanding work in its own right, and gives further evidence, if any were needed, for the importance of what Schad has to say. Furthermore, in its careful plotting of a particular trajectory, it reveals and complicates a great deal about Schad’s own story and confirms Schad’s role as one of he leading critical voices of our time.’ (The Glass)

Queerest Book’

  • ‘a luminous example of critical-creative writing….Through formal experimentation, Hopkins pushed artistic boundaries ; likewise Schad … push[es] the generic conventions of literary criticism to breaking point’ – The Hopkins Quarterly XXXIX (2012) 124-7


  • 'What can one say? After this book, academic "discourse" in all its genres will never be the same again.' (J. Hillis Miller)

The Late Walter Benjamin

-the book:

  • 'Set partly in Watford and partly in the haunted wing of the English language' (Ian Macmillan, on BBC Radio 3's 'The Verb')
  • 'as fascinating as the most experimental avant-garde mobilizations of literature during the interwar period. Stein, Breton, Pirandello and Pessoa come to mind.' (Geoffrey Hartman)
  • 'mixes apparently autobiographical fiction and social history with astute critical reworking of many of Walter Benjamin's most important ideas' (J. Hillis Miller)
  • 'says something previously unsaid about not only about Walter Benjamin but post-war Austerity Britain. Indeed, this strange and unusual book pushes the Sinclairian version of the flâneur into new places and new modes and does so on the basis of rigorous historical and philosophical analysis.' (Esther Leslie)
  • 'This is a witty, smart novel that combines literary criticism and with philosophy. At once inventive and conceptually rich, ...this book will delight and challenge readers and admirers of Benjamin and it will intrigue anyone interested in intellectual and social history' (CHOICE)

-the play:

  • ‘A haunted and haunting production that explores alternative pasts, presents and futures, lives diverted and interrupted, and the eternal present of the reading and writing self. It is both an elegantly reticulated remix of contemporary newspaper accounts of English working class post-war life and the works of Benjamin, and a complex, emotionally resonant exploration of loss, war and the persistence of hope. Both stimulating and moving, the play enacts an important contribution to our understanding of Benjamin’s work and life.’ (Jenn Ashworth, FRSL)

critical inventions (the series)

  • 'a creative intellectual enterprise as rare as it is necessary' (Jonathan Dollimore, web-site endorsement)
  • 'an astounding series which really does offer new ways of thinking and reading' (Ian Macmillan, on BBC Radio 3's 'The Verb')

Someone Called Derrida

-the book:

  • ‘In 1934 in Quest for Corvo… A J A Symons [expressed the hope]…that the “biographer of the future” could undo the “failure” of biography…. But the hope proved short-lived…the biographer of the future never materialised. … In recent years, only a handful of English books could lay claim to Symons’s subtitle, An Experiment in Biography, among them … John Schad’s Someone Called Derrida’ – New Statesman
  • ‘An extraordinary palimpsest of readings… an utterly fetching blend of voices … a wonderful, even astonishing, critical/personal/historical Blitzkrieg.’ - Valentine Cunningham, The Glass
  • ‘pioneering…literary-critical life writing…[by] one of the most significant innovators in the field of …post-criticism’ (Tearle, T.E. Hulme and Modernism)
  • 'intriguing, emotionally powerful and disturbingly intellectual thriller' (The Daily Star, Lewisburg, USA)
  • 'dense and dizzying' (Church Times)
  • 'a perfect illustration of how scholarship and storytelling can dovetail beautifully' (Willy Maley, The Glass).

-the play ('Last Train to Oxford / ‘Derrida’)

  • ‘a marvellous play, which pushes drama to its trembling limits…there is nothing else quite like this. Intensely personal, innovative, and indefatigably intriguing.’ (Oxford Daily Info)
  • ‘hilarious - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the Bodleian’ (Jean-Michel Rabaté).

Arthur Hugh Clough

  • 'Schad …pushes out the…boundaries of Victorian studies' (Journal of Victorian Culture)

Queer Fish

  • 'Rarely is a book …so much a day at the beach: bright, splashy, full of laughter, leaving you happy, if exhausted, at the end….its overall point is not to be missed' (Victorian Studies)
  • 'John Schad's account of Christian unreason makes both belief and unbelief more relevant for us today. His is a critical yet always empathetic rereading of some of the major thinkers who have influenced who we now are. Schad is a critic who inspires respect and trust.' (Jonathan Dollimore)
  • 'this book is both quirky and highly informative, theoretically sophisticated and written in a unique voice… essential reading for anyone wanting to make sense of the traces of Christianity in our supposedly secular age' (Bryan Cheyette)
  • 'if I had to select the book published this year that has affected me most it would be … Schad's wonderful mind-bending book' (The Daily Star, Lewisburg, USA)
  • 'one of the most exciting and imaginative contributions to the field of literature and religion for some time' (Christianity and Literature)
  • 'a single page can move the reader from laugh-out-loud jokes to stunned disbelief' (The Glass)
  • 'its scholarship is exceptional and its contribution to multiple disciplines…is fresh and unique' (Religion and Theology)
  • 'Schad takes his readers on a deep-sea expedition of Victorian waters' (Literature and Theology)
  • '…many moments of real insight' (The Tennyson Research Bulletin).
  • '…much more on the significance of fish in Christianity and philosophy can be gleaned from Queer Fish by John Schad, also sometimes known as 'John Shad,' a scholar who - despite appearing as a character in Nabakov's Pale Fire under the name 'John Shade' - is real, and not made up by me at all. In the slightest. Really.' (A.R.R.R. Roberts, The Va Dinci Cod (Gollancz))


  • 'interesting things' (The Guardian)
  • 'a useful contribution to poststructuralism and a critique of what remains of it' (TLS)
  • 'bracing and encouraging stuff' (The Spectator)
  • 'fresh, unprogrammatic and lively; a reminder of thinking at its best' (The Philosophers' Magazine)

Writing the Bodies of Christ

  • 'an exciting collection of essays …quirky, stimulating and enjoyable' (Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory)
  • 'Schad asks "Have those of us who belong to the discipline [of English Literature] ever left the church?" I cite this inquiry…as a call to action for further scholarship intersecting ...religious studies and current theory' (Victorian Literature and Culture)
  • 'the wonderfully allusive qualities of Schad's own essay…provide a microcosm of the commendable attempt that the volume makes to renew our thinking about the church' (Review of English Studies)

Victorians in Theory

  • 'Schad's provocative and zestful study cross-hatches nineteenth-century English literature and recent French history, and makes them mutually illuminating' (Malcolm Bowie, All Souls College, Oxford - jacket cover)
  • 'John Schad is emerging as one of the most exciting readers of Victorian literature….the intertextual dialogue he sets up produces brilliant and, at times, breathtaking results' (Tennyson Research Bulletin).
  • 'audacieuse et originale…exécutée par un virtuose' (Etudes Anglaises)
  • 'at the threshold of literary experimentation and informed analysis, looking both backward and forward as it does, simultaneously mindful of both the periods it embraces' (Textual Practice)
  • 'a highly inventive interrogation, almost a meditation…fertile with suggestions and excitedly speculative in its heady way with ideas' (JVC)
  • 'a series of intellectual riffs…impressive and convincing' (19th-C Contexts)
  • 'by turns whimsical and insightful, challenging and rewarding' (Lit and Theology)
  • 'one cannot help but admire his eager intelligence and compendious grasp of the field' (Comparative Literature)
  • · 'the …reference to the French original citations…makes this…study' (French Review)

Dickens Refigured

  • ‘Schad's essay ...illuminates religion and architecture and many other aspects of Dickens, and sets up a discursive linking of these themes that others in the volume...echo with profit' (Journal of Victorian Culture)
  • 'Schad's collection attempts something striking and heartening: innovative, sinewy critical work...tough, philosophical, and historical assaults on areas of resistance ... and ... an editorial direction that has given space to ...much energy' (MLR)
  • 'challenging and engaging…sophisticated and original insights'(Dickens Quarterly)

The Reader in the Dickensian Mirrors

  • 'This is a "big" book...' (Studies in English Literature)
  • 'This book is deeply-knowledgeable, abundant in insight, elegantly-argued and, in its dare-devil exorbitance, faithfully, quirkily imitates its subject' (Steven Connor).