Alex Calder, Selwyn

Degree: PhD
Course: English
Supervisor: Dr Jenny Bavidge
Dissertation Title:

Literary Connectivity in Ali Smith's Fiction and Further Writings

Biographical Information

Originally from Caithness in the Highlands of Scotland, I completed an MA (Hons) in English at the University of Aberdeen in 2018 for which I was awarded the Lucy Fellowship for the highest first-class honours in my cohort. Subsequently, I was awarded the LLC Masters Scholarship at the University of Edinburgh, where I completed an MSc in Literature and Modernity and graduated with Distinction in 2019. My doctoral research is supported by the AHRC.

Research Interests

My project "Connectivity and Contemporaneity in Ali Smith's Oeuvre" takes a holistic approach to the complete works of fiction, drama, and criticism of the Scottish author Ali Smith in the context of contemporary literature. I study a single, influential figure as a nodal point for questions about contemporary writing and society. I focus on social marginalisation, relational subjectivity, artistic and intertextual dialogue, and possibilities for connection through formally innovative literary aesthetics. I draw upon multiple theoretical approaches (including feminism, postcolonial studies, queer theory, and ecocriticism) in dialogue with Smith’s entire oeuvre. I also trace the incorporation of other writers, artists, and cultural references which characterise Smith's highly allusive style by integrating these strands as part of a broader focus on connectivity and care across her oeuvre. Through an idiosyncratic style which continually gestures towards new connections and other ways of seeing, I argue that Smith's writing presents rich engagements with the historical and societal conditions of an increasingly globalised and precarious world.

In April 2023, I co-organised the first international symposium on Ali Smith's works alongside Dr Ellie Byrne (Manchester Metropolitan University). Held at the Cambridge Faculty of English, this symposium was part of the Routledge (formerly Gylphi) Contemporary Writers series with Smith herself in attendance and I am co-editing the edited collection stemming from this conference.

Further areas of interest include: modernism, postmodernism and after; intertextuality and adaptation in contemporary writing; aesthetics and ethics; feminist theory; ecocriticism; postcolonial literature and theory; contemporary and modernist women's writing; American literature; narratives and representations of refugees; postcolonial writing; hybrid and experimental writing; small and independent presses; creative criticism and critical praxis; ekphrasis and visual arts in literature; the short story; 21st century fiction and poetry.

Selected Publications

Byrne, Eleanor and Alex Calder (eds). Ali Smith: Critical Essays. Routledge (under contract).

“‘The question of dimension at every level’: An Interview with Ali Smith on Companion Piece, Contemporaneity, and Crisis.” C21 Literature: Journal of 21st-Century Writings (forthcoming).

‘“Peace, my stranger is a tree”: Compassionate Experimentalism in Lanny.’ in Critical Perspectives on Max Porter, ed. by Wojciech Drąg, David Rudrum, and Paweł Wojtas, Routledge, 2024, pp. 70–89:

‘“Nothing is not connected. Nothing is not alive”: Ali Smith as Art Critic.’ The Cambridge Quarterly, 52:4 (2023), pp. 350–370:

‘Artfulness: Intertextuality, Wordplay, and Precariousness in Contemporary Experimental Fiction.’ Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, 63:5 (2022), pp. 547–70:

‘“The great connective”: Contemporaneous Storytelling and Emergent Seriality in Ali Smith’s Seasonal.’ Alluvium, Vol. 7, No. 5 (2019):