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Professor John Schad


John Schad

Lancaster University

County College



Tel: +44 1524 592234

Office Hours:

Wednesdays 10-11, 12-1


Research overview

My main areas of research are: critical-creative writing; post-criticism; Modernism; Victorian writing; literary theory; and the relationship between religion and literature.

PhD supervision

Victorian literature; Modernism; life-writing; place-writing; literary theory; critical-creative writing; religion and literature; experimental criticism.

Current Teaching

At undergraduate level, I give lectures on English 100, Victorian Literature, Modernism, and Literary Theory. I also offerthird-year options called 'Other Victorians' and'Between the Acts, 1919-1938.' At MA level, I offer two courses, one called 'Victorian Extremes: The Coming of Modernity' and one called 'Fusions' which explores various twenteith-century texts that fuse literary genres or traditions - in particular, the critical and the creative.

Research Interests

My main areas of research are: critical-creative writing; modernism; Victorian writing; literary theory; and the relationship between religion and literature. These interests are reflected in my major publications - my seven authored books: namely, 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 five edited books: namely, Dickens Refigured (Manchester UP); Thomas Hardy, A Laodicean (Penguin); Writing the Bodies of Christ (Ashgate); 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 2012 book, The Late Walter Benjamin, takes the form of 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 have been given as part of the ‘Ideas Allowed’ series in Hull, Lancaster, and the Greenbelt Festival. I have since 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 have 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 http://collect-ifs.org/category/performances/.  I am now working with Dalmasso on a filmic adaption of Someone, a project which has begun with a brief trailer video - see https://www.dropbox.com/s/508nspp1eoorgig/IHYOTDclip.mov?n=227798804.

In June 2009 I organised a conference called 'The Critic as Artist / The Artist as Critic' which sought to explore what it might now 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 (June 2011). This is the concluding volume in my critical inventions series and includes 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 is called 'GodotOnSea' and is the first chapter of a novel I am beginning to write of that name 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 is now available as a web-cast http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/litthe/john_schad_talk.mp3 and 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  appears in Hostage of the Word: Readings into Writings, 1993-2013 (Sussex). I have since completed two further critical-creative pieces: one called 'Telegram Gun (The Swiss Life of Emily Dickinson)' which appeared in the new journal E.R.O.S. in 2014, and the other called 'Rue St Augustine' which deals with spiritual memoir and appeared in the Routledge Companion to Literature and Religion (2016).  I have more recently completed an essay called 'The Secret of the 19th Century'  which will be in a volume called Rethinking the 19th Century (MUP, 2017),  a shorter piece responding to J. Hillis Miller for Derrida Today (2015), and a book entitled John Schad in Conversation (De La Salle University Press) as part of of a series including conversations with Christopher Norris, Jonathan Dollimore, Catherine Belsey, and Derek Attridge. A shorter version of the converation will appear in David Bayot (ed.), Speaking of Literature: Critics in Conversation (Routledge, 2016) – other contributors include: Homi Bhabha, J. Hillis Miller, and Marjorie Perloff. I am now co-editing (with Simon Palfrey (Oxford), Katherine Craik (Oxford Brookes) and Joanna Picciotto (Berkeley)), a series of new critical-creative books called Beyond Criticism – Boomsbury is the publisher, see http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/series/beyond-criticism/. And I am also co-editing, with Sarah Dillon (Cambridge), a special issue entitled 'Imagining Derrida' for Derrida Today (2017) and am working on a book called Marie Among the Modernists

I have been invited to read and lecture at a number of universities, both here and in the USA and Canada, regularly act as external examiner at PhD level, have been an external for MAs at the University of Southampton and Royal Holloway London, and for several years served as a member of Editorial Board of the Tennyson Research Bulletin. I was recently an external examiner for the BA English programme at the University of Kent, Canterbury, and 2013-14 begin a term as external at the University of Leicester.

In June 2003 I was invited to the USA to participate in the Erasmus Institute's Summer Faculty Seminar, 'Religious Hermeneutics and Secular Interpretation,' led by Geoffrey Hartman. Since then I have given a number of plenary lectures and/or readings at major conferences, including the 'Spiritual Identities' conference at Lancaster (2004), the 'counter-movements' conference at Portsmouth (2006), 'The Hospitable Text' conference in London (2011), and the ‘In and Between’ symposium at the University of Glamorgan (2012).

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

Having supervised several PhD students to successful completion, I welcome research proposals in any of my areas of interest, including creative writing.

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


 Reviews /Responses:


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’

  • Selected by the Editor of Literature and Theology as one of 25 L&T essays made free to access for 2013 to celebrate the journal’s 25th anniversary.

  •  ‘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)



  • 'sly and funny and deep and delicious' (Simon Callow)

The Late Walter Benjamin  

  • '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)

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:

  • now studied as a primary text at the University of Toronto (see http://www.english.utoronto.ca/undergrad/11-12tt/2011-12/eng383h1sl0101.htm).
  • ‘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
  • 'caught my imagination straight away' (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury')
  • 'an extraordinary performance' (Sir Frank Kermode - webiste endorsement)'
  • 'an amazing book' (J. Hillis Miller, web-site endorsement)
  • 'a remarkable novel ...both challenging and ultimately rewarding' (Ian Macmillan, on BBC Radio 3's 'The Verb')
  • ‘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 entertaining...an 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')

  • ‘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)


Arthur Hugh Clough

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

Queer Fish

  • '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).
  • '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 unason 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, jacket-cover endorsement)
  • '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, jacket-cover endorsement)
  • '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, 2005))


  • 'rich in ideas' (Terry Eagleton - letter, Jan 2004)
  • '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

  • '...an extraordinary text' (Jacques Derrida - letter, May 1999)
  • '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).

Current Teaching

Third year special courses: 'Between the Acts, 1918-1939; 'Other Victorians' ;

MA courses: 'Fusions: Critical and Creative Genres'; 'Victorian Extremes'

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