James McNaughton

James McNaughton



  • PhD, English, University of Michigan

Research Areas

  • Irish studies
  • International Modernisms
  • Critical Theory
  • Postcolonial


I joined UA English in 2007 and teach courses in Irish studies and modernism, postcolonial and critical theory. I’m particularly interested in experimental literary and artistic forms, how such works help us to diagnose the cultural, political, and economic systems we inhabit. In 2013, I was awarded the University of Alabama’s Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award. I serve on the editorial advisory board of Modern Fiction Studies. I founded UA in Ireland.

I take an immanent approach to literary writing both in the classroom and in scholarship. This means I like when we read works very closely and sympathetically, unfold them in their own terms, yet pay careful attention to the contradictions within the work itself and between the work and the world. This kind of interpretation is useful for recognizing an artwork’s political aesthetic. It opens up literature to history through aesthetic form. And it also allows us to ask how literary works change meaning, or even cease to mean, as the world in which they are encountered changes. I model this approach in my book, Samuel Beckett and the Politics of Aftermath (Oxford University Press, 2018), which elaborates Beckett’s political imagination response to Irish liberation, Nazism, Stalinism, and Vichy France. In 2019, I co-edited a collection of essays on Beckett’s work that investigates its influence in other charged political situations: in North Africa, say, or in the Middle East.

I also write on Irish poetry and visual art. And I write non-fiction essays as well.

I have several projects under way. Among them, I’m co-writing a book on Todd Phillips’ Joker, which reads the film to elaborate how late capital depolitiicizes the demos, resulting in a backlash of conspiracy, violence, and authoritarianism. I have edited and introduced an art book Sean Hillen: In-sufficient Evidence that currently seeks a publisher.

Selected Publications



Textual Practice, The Beckett Circle, Irish University Review, Journal of Beckett Studies, Twentieth-Century Literature, Journal of Modern Literature.

Special Issue, editor

  • McNaughton, James with Neil Doshi, eds. “Beckett’s Political Aesthetic on the International Stage.” Special issue, Samuel Beckett Today/Aujuord’hui 31:2 (2019), 183-327.

Public Interviews and Recorded Lecture

Articles and Book Chapters


Book Reviews