Senior Lecturer in Post-1900 British Literature
Benjamin studied English and political science as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, where he remained for his postgraduate study. After completing his doctorate in 2009, he taught and served as the director of The Center for the Study of Genders and Sexualities at California State University, Los Angeles. He joined The University of Edinburgh in 2018 as a lecturer in post-1900 British literature. Benjamin is currently the lead judge for The James Tait Black Prize in Fiction, the coordinator of the How to Read a Novel MOOC, and the Director of Learning and Teaching for The School of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures.
Benjamin teaches Global LGBT Fiction and Climate Change Fiction at the honours level, and he delivers lectures for CP: Criticism. He has also led tutorials in EL1 and EL2, and he has served as course organizer for CP: Prose.
Benjamin teaches Modernist Aesthetics and Late Modernism and Beyond for the MSc in Literature and Modernity.
Open to PhD supervision enquiries?
Areas of interest for supervision
Benjamin welcomes project proposals in modernism and contemporary literature, queer theory, queer of colour critique, LGBT fiction, and the environmental humanities.
Current PhD students supervised
Chloe Leung (Principal Supervisor)
Heather Milligan (Principal Supervisor)
Aiswarya Jayamohan (Principal Supervisor)
Eftychia Saxoni (Principal Supervisor)
Umar Shehzad (Principal Supervisor)
Rupeng Chen (Assistant Supervisor)
Avani Udgaonkar (Assistant Supervisor)
Past PhD students supervised
Bridget Moynihan (Assistant Supervisor)
Benjamin's primary research interests lie in modern and contemporary literature, queer theory, and the environmental humanities. His first book, The Modernist Art of Queer Survival--published by Oxford University Press in 2017--examines precarious and collaborative forms of survival in the fiction and autobiographical prose of Oscar Wilde, Henry James, E.M. Forster, and Willa Cather. His newest book, also with Oxford University Press, is entitled Queer Disappearance in Modern and Contemporary Fiction, and it will be published in 2023.
Queer Disappearance in Modern and Contemporary Fiction breaks with appearance-based models of queer performativity and argues for the experiential richness and political potentials of recessive tendencies in 20th and 21st-century queer literary production. The book theorizes a “perish-performative” that allows for agency in practices of abeyance, and it discovers within queerness’s ample archive of vanishing acts an environmental ethos antithetical to inflationary versions of the human. Tying modernist classics by E.M. Forster and Willa Cather to Andrew Holleran’s gay classic Dancer from the Dance, and then moving to the contemporary ecogothic of Lydia Millet’s How the Dead Dream and the trans decadence of Shola von Reinhold’s Lote, the book refuses the common wisdom that queerness becomes louder and prouder over time, delineating instead a minimalist and daydreaming subjectivity wherein queerness finds escape, respite, and varied opportunities for imaginative reverie. This precarious subjectivity, necessitated but not defined by oppression and obstacle, rewards and restores the queer self, and it also contests the logics of development, acquisition, and productivity that wreak havoc on the planet and entrench social disparities of race, class, and ability. To our present moment of lockdowns and social distancing, Queer Disappearance in Modern and Contemporary Fiction supplies multiple accounts of the collective and personal pleasures, possibilities, and perils to be found in pulling away, going missing, and taking a break.
As of June 2022, Benjamin is the PI on a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant entitled "Fictions of Survival: Pandemic Literatures and Our Present Time." The project includes an international symposium on the topic of representations of pandemics in literature (1650-Present)--to be held December 8-9 at The University of Edinburgh--and an edited collection in which scholars flesh out the lessons of pandemic literatures for our present time.
Benjamin is also the PI on a UKRI Postdoctoral Fellowship entitled "Inhospitable Modernisms." The fellowship will commence in October, 2022.
Current research interestsBenjamin has begun a new book project that revisits HIV/AIDS fiction from the 1980s and 1990s and examines both its (underappreciated) formal complexity and its co-emergence with the field of queer theory. Authors to be studied include Andrew Holleran, Dale Peck, Sarah Schulman, John Weir, and Patricia Powell. The book will end with a chapter or two on contemporary novels that reinhabit the period in which effective treatments for HIV/AIDS were not yet available.
Benjamin is interested in bringing his teaching and research in contemporary LGBT fiction and climate change fiction into conversation with local schools, nonprofits, community organizations, and book clubs. He has led seminars and tutorials in queer theory at the Feminist Autonomous Centre for Research in Athens, Greece, and he is currently working with a team of teachers/researchers through the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara) to provide humanities-based pedagogical assistance to Syrian academics.
As Lead Judge of The James Tait Black Prize in Fiction and organiser of How to Read a Novel, a massive open online course that has reached over 65,000 learners around the world, Benjamin works with The Edinburgh International Book Festival and other organisations to promote the study and appreciation of contemporary literature.
Affiliated research centres
- Disappearing Flesh in Shola von Reinhold's Lote
- Desiring Distance: Andrew Holleran's Dancer from the Dance
- Up in Smoke With José Muñoz
- 'On the Edge of Despair: Andrew Holleran's Dune Creatures'
- 'Speciation as Speculation: Foucault, Holleran, and Queer Value'
Avian, anal, outlaw: Queer ecology in E.M. Forster's Maurice
Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, vol. N/A, pp. 1-29
Research output: Contribution to Journal › Article (Published)
Vaporous vows: Queer weather in Claude Hartland's Story of a Life
Research output: › Chapter (peer-reviewed) (Accepted/In press)
[Review of] Dead Letters Sent: Queer Literary Transmission Old Futures: Speculative Fiction and Queer Possibility Circulating Queerness: Before the Gay and Lesbian Novel Melodrama: An Aesthetics of Impossibility
American Literature, vol. 91, pp. 898-901
Research output: Contribution to Journal › Book/Film/Article review (Published)
A flattened protagonist: Sleep and environmental mitigation in Lydia Millet's How the Dead Dream
Contemporary Women's Writing
Research output: Contribution to Journal › Article (Published)
The Modernist Art of Queer Survival
Research output: › Book (Published)