Professor Patrick Flanery

Professor Patrick Flanery
 Position Chair of Creative Writing
 Org Unit English and Creative Writing
 Telephone +61 8 8313 4249
  • Biography/ Background

    I was born in California and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. After finishing my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television Production at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, I worked as a freelance script reader for Sony Pictures Entertainment, and subsequently as a book scout for a production company and talent management agency in New York City.

    In 2001, I moved to the U.K., where I completed my doctorate at the University of Oxford on the publishing and adaptation histories of Evelyn Waugh’s novels, and also began working on South African literature and film. From 2005 to 2009 I taught modern and contemporary literature and literary theory as an adjunct at the University of Sheffield, during which time I was also writing my first novel, ABSOLUTION (2012). I have since published three further novels, FALLEN LAND (2013), I AM NO ONE (2016), and NIGHT FOR DAY (2019). In 2019 I also published a hybrid creative-critical memoir, THE GINGER CHILD: ON FAMILY, LOSS AND ADOPTION.

    Translations of my novels have appeared in a dozen languages. ABSOLUTION won the Spear’s/Laurent Perrier Best First Book Award in 2012, and was shortlisted for a number of other prizes, including the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize.

    Other creative and critical work has been published in Zoetrope: All Story, Granta, Newsweek, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Spectator, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Daily Telegraph. I have appeared at literary festivals around the U.K., as well as in France, Italy, Norway, South Africa, and the U.S.A. My work has been supported by fellowships and residencies at MacDowell (USA), the Santa Maddalena Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center (Italy), and the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (South Africa).

    I joined the University of Adelaide as Professor of Creative Writing in January 2021. I have held posts in the U.K. as Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Reading and Queen Mary University of London. I am Professor Extraordinary in the English Department at the University of Stellenbosch.

  • Qualifications

    DPhil in Twentieth-Century English Literature, University of Oxford, Faculty of English Language and Literature, 2007

    MSt in Research Methods in English, University of Oxford, Faculty of English Language and Literature, 2002

    BFA in Film & Television Production, New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, 1998

  • Awards & Achievements

    Literary Prizes & Nominations (selective)

    o   International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, Shortlist (Ireland), 2014.

    o   Le Prix du Premier Roman Étranger, Finalist (France), 2013.

    o   Le Prix Page/America, Shortlist (France), 2013.

    o   Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, Shortlist (UK), 2013.

    o   Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, Shortlist (UK), 2013.

    o   Spear’s/Laurent Perrier Best First Book Award, Winner (UK), 2012.

    o   Guardian First Book Award, Longlist (UK), 2012.

    o   Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, Shortlist (USA), 2012.

    o   Green Carnation Prize, Longlist (UK), 2012.

    o   Spear’s Best Novel Award, Shortlist (UK), 2012.

    o   Desmond Elliott Prize, Longlist (UK), 2012.


    Fellowships and Residencies

    o   STIAS – Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, Artist in Residence, July-September 2019

    o   MacDowell, Fellow, May 2019

    o   Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio Center, Literary Arts Fellow, April-May 2014

    o   Santa Maddalena Foundation, Arts Council England Emerging Writer Fellow, March-April 2013 and Returning Fellow, March-April 2015


  • Research Interests

    Research Interests

    • Literary Fiction
    • Creative Nonfiction
    • Poetry
    • Transnationalism and migration
    • Surveillance and paranoia
    • Queer theories, affects, and subjectivities
    • Psychoanalysis and literature
    • Lyric forms
    • Film & Photography
    • Contemporary North American Literature
    • Contemporary European Literature in Translation

    Recent and Ongoing Research

    My four published novels are united by concerns with subjectivity, trauma, memory, migration, paranoia, and surveillance. A. S. Byatt has called me ‘a master of puzzling, alarming, and even terrifying storytelling.’

    Absolution (2012) follows a South African expatriate who returns to Cape Town from the United States to write the biography of a celebrated novelist. Told in four voices, the book foregrounds the ethics of representation and the complex demands of recounting traumatic histories. The subject of a long review in the New Yorker magazine, the novel won the 2012 Spear’s Laurent Perrier Best First Book Prize and was shortlisted for others including the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize. In 2015 and 2016, Absolution was a set text on the IEB syllabus for South African secondary schools in the final English exam.

    Fallen Land (2013), set in the American Midwest, is in conversation with traditions of American writing about the uncanny, the gothic, race, and suburbia. Set in the wake of the mortgage foreclosure crisis, it engages too with such issues as climate change, corporatism under neoliberalism, and debates about the posthuman. The New York Times reviewer, novelist David Vann, called it ‘an engaging attempt to identify the source of sourceless rage and the reasons an American dream, once achieved, can feel empty,’ and said it ‘speaks especially eloquently to our uncertain times’.

    In I Am No One (2016), the narrator, a professor of modern German history who returns to New York after a decade at Oxford, becomes convinced he is under government surveillance, and is forced to reassess his relationship with an exiled Egyptian doctoral student. Novelist Teddy Wayne called it ‘a novel of Pynchonesque paranoid ideas, wrapped in psychologically acute Jamesian prose, delivered by a gripping story worthy of Graham Greene’, and the novelist Hanya Yanagihara said it confirmed me as ‘a writer with an uncanny sense of the anxieties and fears that define the modern condition’.

    Night for Day (2019) is a formally experimental fiction that follows a group of characters working on a film noir in Hollywood on a single day in 1950 as their lives come to mirror the complicities and betrayals of the picture they are making (and whose screenplay is part of the text) in the shadow of the Red and Lavender scares of McCarthyite America. In the same year I published The Ginger Child: On Family, Loss and Adoption, a hybrid critical-creative work of memoir and criticism that explores questions of belonging, queer identity, and kinship, engaging with the work of Melanie Klein, Eve Sedgwick, Sianne Ngai, and Lee Edelman, amongst others, and offering readings of contemporary fiction, visual art, television, and film—from Caché to Alien: Covenant.

    In addition to my ongoing work as a scholar and critic (see my list of publications), I am currently working on a number of creative writing projects including fiction, poetry, and film.

    I would be happy to hear from potential doctoral students whose interests and proposals overlap with any of my research areas.

  • Publications


    o   Night for Day: A Novel. 2019. London: Atlantic Books.

    o   The Ginger Child: On Family, Loss and Adoption. 2019. London: Atlantic Books.

    ·       A rare, brilliant and essential exploration of adoption in queer families, and one of the most significant additions to the canon of queer literature in years. John D'Agata

    o   I Am No One. 2016. New York: Tim Duggan Books/Crown/Penguin Random House. London: Atlantic Books. Translations  in China, France, Germany, and Spain.

    ·       ‘Flanery is a master of puzzling, alarming and even terrifying storytelling. . . .One of the pleasures of reading [him] is the tussle between ways of understanding the shapes of stories and language. . . . [H]e writes realist novels which show their awareness that realism is a self-conscious form like others. Reviewers have described his novels as thrillers, which is never quite right . . . there are parts of the story that stand out as thrilling, next to other parts that are meditative, and others that are psychologically baffling. Readers are constantly seeking to work out what sort of writing they are reading.’ —A.S. Byatt, Guardian

    o   Fallen Land. New York: Riverhead Books, 2013; London: Atlantic Books, 2013. Translations in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain.

    ·       Fallen Land illustrates the complex and often unpredictable ways that the past interacts with the present.’ ‘[T]he book is downright exhilarating...a function of its energy and stylistic restlessness’, ‘the real excitement ... is the sustained fury that Flanery brings to his depiction of contemporary America ... it paints a chilling picture of a society deranged by violence, paranoia and its own fantasies of self-reliance. In the end, these fantasies and the cycles of dispossession and violence they fuel lie at the heart of this powerful and often dazzling novel. As the final pages suggest, the sins of the past cannot ever be fully expunged; they continue to reverberate down through time.’ —James Bradley, The Washington Post

    o   Absolution. New York: Riverhead Books, 2012; London: Atlantic Books, 2012; Toronto: Knopf, 2012. Translations in Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, and Spain.

    ·       ‘when you finish Absolution there is one sure thing that stays with you: Patrick Flanery is an exceptionally gifted and intelligent novelist, and he is just getting started.’ —Philip Gourevitch, The New Yorker


    Short Fiction

    o   ‘Bearings’, in Kate Gottgens, Kate Gottgens: Paintings 2015-2017. Cape Town: SMAC Gallery, 2017.

    o   ‘Heretics’, in Zoetrope: All Story. Volume 21.2. Summer 2017.

    o   ‘Interior: Monkeyboy’, in Granta 136: Legacies of Love. July 2016.



    o   ‘Letter to an Evolutionary Zoologist’, in The Southern Review. Forthcoming in 2021.


    Interviews (selective)

    o   Twenty Questions, The Times Literary Supplement (TLS). September 2019.

    o   Reflection, Understanding, and Empathy: A Conversation between Carol-Ann Davids and Patrick Flanery, Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies, July 2017.

    o   Interview by Christopher Holmes, Contemporary Literature 54.3, September 2013: 427-58.

    o   Interview by Jonathan Derbyshire, The New Statesman, 14 June 2013.

    o   ‘How I Write’, interview by Noah Charney, The Daily Beast, 1 May 2013.

    o   Interview by Malcolm Forbes, The Millions, 4 May 2012.


    Essays, Reviews & Opinion (selective)

    o   ‘Fence Me In’, Solitudes blog, 15 May 2020.

    o   The Troubled Times of Magrieta Prinsloo by Ingrid Winterbach, Johannesburg Review of Books. Sept. 2019.

    o   ‘Punch and Injury’, on Jordan Wolfson’s Colored sculptureTLS. June 2018.

    o   The Lime Tree by César Aira, Spectator. Feb. 2018.

    o   A Long Way from Home by Peter Carey, Spectator. Jan. 2018.

    o   Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett, Spectator. June 2016.

    o   Moonstone by Sjón, TLS. June 2016.

    o   Trencherman by Eben Venter, Guardian. March 2016.

    o   Slade House by David Mitchell, Spectator. Oct. 2015.

    o   Jimfish by Christopher Hope, Spectator. May 2015.

    o   The Nearest Thing to Life by James Wood, Newsweek. April 2015.

    o   Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish, Guardian. April 2015.

    o   ‘Not Gordimer,’ Hazlitt, July 2014.

    o   Mr. Bones by Paul Theroux, Guardian. 9 Oct. 2014.

    o   California by Edan Lepucki, TLS. 9 Oct. 2014.

    o   How to be both by Ali Smith, Telegraph. 30 Aug. 2014.

    o   Outlaws by Javier Cercas, Guardian. 21 June 2014.

    o   ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’. The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, Telegraph, 31 May 2014.

    o   ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. Double Negative by Ivan Vladislavić, Guardian, 9 Nov. 2013.

    o   The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee, Washington Post, Sept. 2013.

    o   ‘I am in a civil partnership, but it is no substitute for marriage,’ Guardian, 5 June 2013.

    o   ‘Banished by Love’, Los Angeles Times, 26 March 2013.

    o   Philida by André Brink. Telegraph, 14 Aug. 2012.

    o   ‘Distil their Souls.’ The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. TLS, 14 May 2010.

    o   ‘Two Cities.’ The One That Got Away by Zoë Wicomb. TLS, 9 Oct. 2009.

    o   ‘J.M. Coetzee’s autre-biography’ Summertime by J.M. Coetzee. TLS, 11 Sept. 2009.

    o   ‘A theory of hands.’ The Pages by Murray Bail. TLS, 22 Aug. 2008.

    o   ‘Money from Buzz.’ The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer. TLS, 27 June 2008.

    o   ‘The new South African novel.’ Agaat by Marlene van Niekerk. TLS, 7 Dec. 2007.

    o   ‘Voiceless views.’ Foreigners: Three English Lives by Caryl Phillips. TLS, 21 Sept. 2007.

    o   ‘How to get home.’ The Blue Door by André Brink. TLS, 24 Aug. 2007.

    o   ‘Star-crossed Cowboys.’ Wounded by Percival Everett. TLS, 2 March 2007.

    o   ‘Headlong into Art.’ The Ghost of Memory by Wilson Harris. TLS, 14 Dec. 2006.



    o   Forthcoming: ‘All the Cake in the World: Five Provocations on Mildred Pierce’, in Julia Leyda and Theresa L. Geller, eds., Reframing Todd Haynes: Feminism’s Indelible Mark. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2022.

    o   ‘Limber: The Flexibilities of Post-Nobel Coetzee.’ In Print, Text, & Book Cultures in South Africa. Ed. Andrew van der Vlies. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2012. pp. 208-24.

    o   ‘The BBC Brideshead, 1956.’ In A Handful of Mischief. Ed. Donat Gallagher, Ann Pasternak Slater, John Wilson. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2011. pp. 220-31.

    o   ‘Brideshead Re-Positioned: Re-Ma(r)king Text and Tone in Filmed Adaptation.’ In Waugh Without End: New Trends in Evelyn Waugh Studies. Ed. Carlos José Villar Flor and Robert Murray Davis. Bern: Peter Lang, 2005. pp. 193-210.


    Scholarly Articles

    o   In My Country’s Filmic Betrayals: Reification and the Ethics of Adapting Country of My Skull.’ Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies 11.3, July 2010: 233-60.

    o   ‘Readership, Authority, and Identity: Some Competing Texts of A Handful of Dust.’ Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America103.2, September 2009: 337-56.

    o   ‘Annexing the Global, Globalizing the Local.’ Scrutiny2 13.1, 2008: 3-17. (With Andrew van der Vlies.)

    o   ‘Re-Marking Coetzee and Costello: The [Textual] Lives of Animals.’ English Studies in Africa 47.1, 2004: 61-84. (Special Issue: Histories of the Book in Southern Africa.)


    Guest Editorship of Scholarly Journal

    o   South African Cultural Texts and the Global Mediascape. Special issue of Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa 13.1, 2008. (With Andrew van der Vlies.)


    Review Essay

    o   ‘What National Cinema? South African film culture and the transnational.’ On South African National Cinema by Jacqueline Maingard; Black & White In Colour: African History on Screen ed. Vivian-Bickford Smith and Richard Mendelsohn, To Change Reels: Film and Film Culture in South Africa ed. Isabel Balseiro and Ntongela Masilela. Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies 10.2, April 2009: 239-53.


  • Professional Associations

    Member, Pathologies of Solitude Research Network. Investigator: Professor Barbara Taylor (Queen Mary University of London)

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Entry last updated: Friday, 5 Feb 2021

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