Dr Alex Houen, Pembroke




Biographical Information

I did a BA(Hons) and a two-year research MPhil at the University of Sydney before coming to King's College, Cambridge to do a PhD. After that I taught Modern Literature and American Studies at the University of Sheffield until 2009, when I took up a post back here in the Faculty of English. I am a University Associate Professor in Modern Literature, and a Fellow of Pembroke College.


Research Interests

General interests include: modern and contemporary fiction and poetry (particularly poetry sequences); war literature; avant-gardes; post-structuralism; performativity; affects; sacrifice; aesthetics of suspension.

I am currently finishing a monograph examining sacrifice and war literature from WWI to the present.


Areas of Graduate Supervision

Any of the research interests listed above. Authors, theorists, and philosophers of particular interest: Aristotle, Spinoza, Kant, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Wyndham Lewis, Ford Maddox Ford, John Dos Passos, George Barker, Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Ezra Pound, W. H. Auden, James Baldwin, Rebecca West, Curzio Malaparte, Ernest Hemingway, Samuel Beckett, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, John Cage, Kathy Acker, Amiri Baraka, Frank O'Hara, Lyn Hejinian, Denise Riley, Don DeLillo, Juliana Spahr, Nadeem Aslam, Martin Heidegger, Emmanuel Levinas, René Girard, Fredric Jameson, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Judith Butler, Jacques Rancière.


Selected Publications




Edited Collections



  • Malaparting [chapbook] (Equipage, 2021)
  • Ring Cycle (Eyewear Publishing, 2018)
  • Co-written with Geoff Gilbert, Hold! West [chapbook, 28pp] (Eyewear Publishing, 2016)
  • Rouge States [chapbook, 28pp] (Oystercatcher Press, 2014)
  • Co-editor with Adam Piette of Blackbox Manifold, an online bi-annual poetry journal (since 2008)


Selected Articles and Chapters

  • 'On Inner Voice, Free Indirect Style, and Lyric', (Textual Practice 2021)
  • 'Introduction: Affect and Literature', in Affect and Literature, ed. Alex Houen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 1-31.
  • 'On Happily Reading John Cage', in Reading Experimental Writing, ed. Georgina Colby (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019), 51-73.
  • 'Afterword', in Terrorism and Literature [Cambridge Critical Concepts Series], ed. Peter Hermann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 505-14.
  • 'Reckoning Sacrifice in "War on Terror" Literature', American Literary History 28:3 (2016), 574–595
  • 'Martyrdom and Hostage Executions in the Iraq War: The Cases of Kenneth Bigley and Margaret Hassan', in Martyrdom and Terrorism, Pre-modern to Contemporary Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014) [see above]
  • 'States at War and Modes of War', in States of War since 9/11: Terrorism, Sovereignty, and the War on Terror (London: Routledge, 2014), 1-22 [see above]
  • 'Sacrifice and Sublimity after 9/11', in The Edinburgh Companion to British, American, and Irish War Literature in the 20th and 21st Centuries, ed. Adam Piette and Mark Rawlinson (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012)
  • 'Affecting Words', in special issue on 'Affects, Text, and Performativity' of Textual Practice 25:2 (March/April 2011)
  • 'Pound and Anti-Semitism', in Ezra Pound in Context, ed. Ira Nadel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 391-401
  • 'The Novel and Politics', in The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction, ed. Brian Shaffer (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 407-23
  • 'Sacrificial Militancy and the War on Terror', in Terror and the Postcolonial, ed. Stephen Morton and Elleke Boehmer (London: Blackwell, 2009)
  • '"Back! Back! Back! Central Mind Machine Pentagon": Allen Ginsberg and the Vietnam War', Cultural Politics 4:3 (2008), 351-74
  •  'Sovereignty, Biopolitics, and the Use of Literature: Michel Foucault and Kathy Acker', in Foucault in an Age of Terror: Essays on Biopolitics and The Defence of Society, ed. Stephen Morton and Stephen Bygrave (London: Palgrave, 2008), 63-87
  • 'William S. Burroughs's "Cities of the Red Night Trilogy": Writing Outer Space', Journal of American Studies 40:3 (2006), 523-46
  • 'Novel Spaces and Taking Places in the Wake of September 11', Studies in the Novel (2004), 419-37
  • 'Walter Abish: Plotting a Terrorism of Postmodernist Fiction', in Modern Language Review: Yearbook of English Studies 30 (2000):202-20
  • ' "Various Infinitudes": Narration, Embodiment, and Ontology, in Samuel Beckett's How It Is and Spinoza's Ethics', in Post-Theory, ed. Martin McQuillan et al. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999), 178-87
  • 'Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent: Anarchism and the Thermodynamics of Law', ELH 65:4 (1998): 995-1016