Simon Cooke

Senior Lecturer


Simon Cooke studied for an undergraduate degree in English Literature at Hull University (2000), and then for an MA in English: Issues in Modern Culture at University College London (2003); he then moved to Germany to join the International PhD Programme (IPP) ‘Literary and Cultural Studies’ with a scholarship at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture at Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen. At JLU, Simon taught in the Department of English and American Studies, and from 2009-10 was a Research Co-ordinator of the IPP. He returned to the UK in 2010 to take up a Research Fellowship at Wolfson College, Oxford, where from April to September 2012 he also covered as administrator for the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing. He joined the English Department at Edinburgh University as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in autumn 2012, and became Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature in 2014.

Undergraduate teaching

  • Fourth-year and PG option: Modern and Contemporary Life-Writing
  • Fourth-year ad PG option: Fiction and Espionage (with Prof. Penny Fielding)
  • Third-year option: Mystery and Horror (with Prof. Penny Fielding)
  • Fourth-year option: Cities of Literature: Metropolitan Modernities (with Dr David Farrier)
  • Course Organiser (from Semester 2 2022): Literary Studies 1B
  • Dissertation supervision

Postgraduate teaching

  • MSc Literature and Modernity I: Modernist Aesthetics (Semester 1)
  • LLC Research Methods Workshops: International Approaches in the Humanities; Travel Writing as Research Field; Working with Author Archives; Research in Modern and Contemporary Literature
  • Dissertation supervision (English Literature and sometimes also Comparative Literature)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I am currently close to full capacity with doctoral supervision, but would be happy to receive inquiries from prospective doctoral researchers whose interests coincide with or complement my own, as I may have more availability in the near future.  

Current PhD students supervised

Alan Goodson - The Real Figure in the Carpet: Biofiction and the Making of Henry James. PhD p/t, year 3.

Maxime Geervliet - The Self on Trial: Confession in Knausgaard, Cusk and Almadhoun. PhD, year 2. 

Rosie Sinclair - Muriel Spark and Music (jointly supervised with Allyson Stack). PhD p/t, year 2.




Past PhD students supervised

Angus Sutherland - 'opaque images of broken rebellion': W.G. Sebald's Emblematics. Successful award 2023. 

Nicole Chen - A 'Self in Process': Contemporary Biofictions of Virginia Woolf. Successful award 2022. 

Saori Mita - Queer Spies in Literature, Film, TV, and Theatre (jointly supervised with - as lead - Dr David Sorfa. Successful award 2021. 

MScR II: Alan Goodson - The Foreigner in (Popular) Fiction: Comparing Victorian and Contemporary Representations'. Successful award 2018.

MScR II: Adam Bloom -  Vladimir Nabokov and the Real. Successful award 2015.

Research summary

Simon's broad interests lie in modern and contemporary English and comparative literature. Modernism, life writing, the literature of travel, and secrecy in literature, are among his areas of special interest.


Current research interests

Simon's current research falls into two main areas: life-writing (and the relations between writers' lives and works); and literature and secrecy (particularly the relations between literature and espionage). Alongside essays and collaborations in these areas, he is working on two books. One is an essayistic memoir called Baba Yaga's Library: Reading, Writing, and Literary Gifts. This explores the place of reading in a life and in the wider culture through a sequence of books received or understood as gifts, and through the wider theme of gifts, givens, and giftedness. The other is a monograph called Forms of Secrecy: Espionage and the Literary Imagination, which focuses on the ways writers across the long twentieth century have responded, directly and indirectly, formally as well as thematically, to the emergence and development of secret services as a feature of public institutional and political life (focusing on, among others, Henry James, Elizabeth Bowen, Stevie Smith, Samuel Beckett, Muriel Spark).

Past research interests

Simon's research background is in the literature of travel, which was the subject of his first monograph - Travellers' Tales of Wonder: Chatwin, Naipaul, Sebald - published by EUP in February 2013.

Knowledge exchange

At Edinburgh, Simon is convenor of the Edinburgh Life-Writing Network (, which also links in to his work as judge of the James Tait Black Prize for Biography (

He is a co-director of the Edinburgh Network for Studies in Secrecy ( , which evolved from Edinburgh Spy Week (  

He was one of the co-founders and former convenors, with Dr Clare Broome Saunders and Dr Tom F. Wright, of Travel Cultures: An Oxford Interdisciplinary Research Seminar, and a co-founder and former co-organiser, with Prof. Timothy Mathews (UCL), of the podcast interview series Between the Lines: Literature and the Arts in Translation.