Alex Thomson

Professor of Modern Literature and Critical Theory


Professor Alex Thomson is currently Head of the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures. From 2019 to 2022 he was Head of English and Scottish Literature; from 2010 to 2014 he was Postgraduate Director of the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures. He is a Fellow of the English Association, and serves as a member of its Higher Education Committee.

After completing his PhD at the University of Edinburgh, Alex Thomson held a post-doctoral fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, before appointments as a lecturer at the University of Bristol and the University of Glasgow. He joined the University of Edinburgh in 2006. Between July 1999 and January 2001, while studying for his PhD, he was editor of Edinburgh Review.


  • PhD, University of Edinburgh, 2001
  • MA in English Literature: Critical Theory, University of Sussex, 1998
  • MA (Hons) in English and Scottish Literature, University of Edinburgh 1997

Responsibilities & affiliations

  • Chair of University English (2017-2022)
  • Member of the Executive Steering Committee, British Association of Modernist Studies (2016-2022).
  • Convenor, Press Committee, Edinburgh University Press (2015-2022).

I have been chair of the Scottish Network of Modernist Studies.


Undergraduate teaching

  • Contemporary Scottish Fiction
  • Romanticism: Themes, Genres, Contexts
  • Modern Scottish Fiction
  • Scottish Literature 2

Postgraduate teaching

  • Critical Theory: Issues and Debates

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I have supervised research projects on twentieth-century Scottish writing,  as well as on modernist, avant-garde and contemporary poetics.

I am happy to supervise research on a wide range of topics in literary, cultural and critical theory.

Current PhD students supervised

  • Oisin Breen - Complexity and Narratology
  • Carolina Buffoli - Contemporary Scottish and Postcolonial Gothic Fiction


Past PhD students supervised

  • James Benstead - A Study of Hugh MacDiarmid's "In Memoriam James Joyce".
  • Corey Gibson - Endless Flyting: The Formulation of Hamish Henderson’s Cultural Politics. [Revised as "The Voice of the People: Hamish Henderson and Scottish Cultural Politics" Edinburgh University Press, 2015]
  • Christos Hadjiyiannis - A Re-examination of the work of T.E. Hulme. [Revised as "Conservative Modernists: Literature and Tory Politics in Britain, 1900-1920" Cambridge University Press, 2018]
  • Nathalie Ingrassia - Norman MacCaig and the Fascination of Existence. (co-supervised with Dr Carole Jones)
  • Lila Matsumoto - Poetic Experiments and Transnational Exchange: the little magazines Migrant (1959-60) and Poor.Old.Tired.Horse (1962-67).
  • Jessica Syers - Neo-picaresque and Twentieth Century Fiction. (PhD in Comparative Literature, co-supervised with Professor Peter Davies)
  • Greg Thomas - Concrete Poetry in England and Scotland 1962-1975: Ian Hamilton Finlay, Edwin Morgan, Dom Sylvester Houedard and Bob Cobbing. [Revised as "Border Blurs: Concrete Poetry in England and Scotland" Liverpool University Press, 2019]
  • Silvia Villa - The Concept of Canon in Literary Studies: Critical Debates 1970-2000.

Research summary

Dr Alex Thomson's general research interests lie in literature and philosophy since the romantic period. In particular he works on 19th and 20th century Scottish literature and thought, in continental philosophy, and in political theory.

He has written books on the thought of Jacques Derrida and Theodor Adorno. Particular interests at the moment are the history of Scottish philosophy since the Enlightenment, the relationship between devolution and contemporary Scottish literature, the poetry and influence of Hugh MacDiarmid in Britain.

Dr Thomson remains interested in the possibilities of dialogue between the tradition of modern social and political theory and the post-phenomenological tradition in twentieth century French thought, and in the so-called agonist and realist challenges to liberal political philosophy - but equally in what continental thinkers might learn from the liberal side.

Dr Thomson is happy to supervise research in any area of modern or contemporary Scottish Literature, but particularly in twentieth century Scottish fiction and poetry, in Scottish modernism, and in the history of ideas in Scotland. He also welcomes proposals relating to my interests in twentieth century French thought, in the work of the Frankfurt School, as well as interdisciplinary projects linking literature to philosophy and/or political theory.

Project activity

  • In the field of 19th century Scottish literature I am currently editing Memories and Portraits for the New Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson, to be published by Edinburgh University Press. Dr Thomson has published an essay on Stevenson's use of familiar style in this volume of essays, as well as book chapters on Stevenson's reception, and on politics, history and literature in Treasure Island. As co-director of the Scottish Writing in the Nineteenth Century project, I work with Professor Penny Fielding to oversee a programme of research seminars and public engagement events, as well as a regular staff-postgraduate reading group.
  • Dr Thomson's interests in international modernism, and in twentieth century literature, are reflected in my recent essay on Hugh MacDiarmid and Wyndham Lewis in an issue of Modernist Cultures on 'Ex-centric Modernisms', co-edited with Matthew Creasy, as well as in my long-term involvement with the Scottish Network of Modernist Studies, of which I am currently the Chair.
  • Alongside Benjamin Arditi, and Andrew Schaap, Dr Thomson is series editor for the Edinburgh University Press series Taking on the Political, publishing new work in political theory that draws on the tradition of continental political thought.