School of English

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Ben Masters

Assistant Professor in Literature 1880 to the present, Faculty of Arts

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Biography

BA and MSt (Oxford); PhD (Cambridge)

I joined the School of English in 2017. Prior to this I was a Lecturer at the Open University and a Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. I have taught both literature and creative writing.

Expertise Summary

My research encompasses prose writing from the nineteenth century to the present day, with a particular focus on the long post-war to present period. I take a broad interest in aesthetics and am especially interested in the ethical and philosophical possibilities of style. My monograph, Novel Style: Ethics and Excess in English Fiction since the 1960s (Oxford University Press, 2017), examines the ethical affect of so-called excessive writing in the post-war to present period, with chapters on Anthony Burgess, Angela Carter, Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, Nicola Barker and David Mitchell, and addresses the ethical turn in contemporary literary criticism. I've also written on Ali Smith, H. G. Wells, Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan, among others.

I also write fiction. My first novel, Noughties, was published by Penguin and Hamish Hamilton in the UK and Hogarth (Crown) in the US, and I am working on my second at present. I review and write on literature regularly in the national press, most frequently for the Times Literary Supplement and Literary Review, as well as the Guardian, New York Times and NPR. I have discussed my work at a variety of literary festivals and public events, and on BBC radio.

Teaching Summary

I teach widely on modern and contemporary literature. Presently I contribute to the following modules:

Undergraduate:

Studying Literature; Victorian and Fin de Siecle Literature 1830-1910; Dark Futures, Tainted Pasts (Gothic and Dystopian Literature); Contemporary Fiction; Literature and Popular Culture; Modern and Contemporary Literature; Academic Community.

Postgraduate:

Literary Histories; Literature in Britain post-1950; What is Literature?; Approaches to Text.

I welcome proposals from potential PhD students on fiction of the post-war to present day period, literary style, ethical criticism, and the relationships between creative and critical practice.

Research Summary

I am currently working on several projects, including an edited collection of essays on the re-emergence of style as a prominent critical topic; the confluences between H. G. Wells's early writing… read more

Recent Publications

  • BEN MASTERS, ed., 2021. 'Style', a special issue of Textual Practice 35(6).
  • BEN MASTERS, 2021. 'The New Stylism' Textual Practice. 35(6), 901-919
  • BEN MASTERS, 2021. 'Adjustment-Style: From H.G. Wells to Ali Smith and the Metamodern Novel' Textual Practice. 35(6), 967-995
  • BEN MASTERS, 2020. Indie Style: Nicola Barker and a Turn-of-the-Century Aesthetic. In: BERTHOLD SCHOENE, ed., Nicola Barker: Critical Essays Glyphi. (In Press.)

I welcome interest from prospective doctoral students engaging with any of the following broad areas: post-war and contemporary fiction, the modern novel, style, ethical criticism.

Current Research

I am currently working on several projects, including an edited collection of essays on the re-emergence of style as a prominent critical topic; the confluences between H. G. Wells's early writing and contemporary fiction (particularly Ali Smith); and the meaning of the 'novelistic'. I am also working on a novel.

Future Research

My next big project will be a major group biography of the socio-literary circle that emerged from the New Statesman, TLS, New Review and Observer (and associated publications) in the 1970s and would go on to headline the British literary scene of the ensuing decades.

  • BEN MASTERS, ed., 2021. 'Style', a special issue of Textual Practice 35(6).
  • BEN MASTERS, 2021. 'The New Stylism' Textual Practice. 35(6), 901-919
  • BEN MASTERS, 2021. 'Adjustment-Style: From H.G. Wells to Ali Smith and the Metamodern Novel' Textual Practice. 35(6), 967-995
  • BEN MASTERS, 2020. Indie Style: Nicola Barker and a Turn-of-the-Century Aesthetic. In: BERTHOLD SCHOENE, ed., Nicola Barker: Critical Essays Glyphi. (In Press.)
  • BEN MASTERS, 2020. 'Tudor Prose' [review of Hilary Mantel, The Mirror and the Light] Literary Review.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2020. 'The Long & Winding Road' [review of David Mitchell, Utopia Avenue] Literary Review.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2020. 'A Ghost, A Gift, ha ha' [review of Ali Smith, Summer] Times Literary Supplement.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2019. 'The Mid-Atlantics'. In: PETER BOXALL, ed., The Cambridge Companion to British Fiction 1980-2018 Cambridge University Press.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2019. 'Treasured Kinks' Times Literary Supplement.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2019. 'Preferring Birds to Humans' Times Literary Supplement.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2019. 'Blunt Edges' Times Literary Supplement.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2018. ‘Casting for the Truth’ Times Literary Supplement.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2018. ‘Late-Stage Slimming’ Times Literary Supplement.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2018. ‘Missing Pieces’ Times Literary Supplement.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2018. ‘Night on the Town’ Literary Review.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2017. Novel Style: Ethics and Excess in English Fiction since the 1960s Oxford University Press.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2017. ‘Portrait of the Artist-Critic’ Times Literary Supplement.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2017. 'The Real Thing' Times Literary Supplement.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2016. 'A Change of View: H. G. Wells and Adjustment-Style' Times Literary Supplement.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2015. 'Living the Dream in Milton Keynes' Guardian.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2014. 'From the Family' Times Literary Supplement.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2013. 'Things I Don't Want to Know': [short story commissioned for BBC Radio 3]
  • BEN MASTERS, 2013. ‘Martin Amis’s Yellow Dog’ NPR.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2013. 'Bangs a Drum' Times Literary Supplement.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2012. Noughties: A Novel Penguin.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2012. 'A Short Defense of Literary Excess' New York Times.
  • BEN MASTERS, 2012. 'Live for Style: A Clockwork Orange and its creator, fifty years on' Times Literary Supplement.

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