Portrait of Dr Derek Ryan

Dr Derek Ryan

Senior Lecturer in Modernist Literature


BA (Hons), Strathclyde; MLitt, PhD, Glasgow

Derek Ryan is Senior Lecturer in Modernist Literature. He joined the University of Kent in September 2013, having previously held the post of Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Exeter and worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Glasgow, where he completed his PhD.

Research interests

Derek’s primary research specialisms are in modernist literature, animal studies and critical theory, and he has published widely in each of these areas. His first monograph, Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory: Sex, Animal, Life (Edinburgh UP, 2013), explores the relationship between culture and nature, embodiment and environment, human and nonhuman, life and matter across Woolf’s writings. In doing so, it brings modernism into dialogue with Deleuzian philosophy, posthumanism and new materialism. His second monograph, Animal Theory: A Critical Introduction (Edinburgh UP, 2015; translated into Turkish in 2019), offers a wide-ranging account of theoretical approaches to animality in modern and contemporary thought, with chapters on ‘Animals as Humans’, ‘Animal Ontology’, ‘Animal Life’ and ‘Animal Ethics’. Ideas relating to these books are developed in various essays and articles, as well as in his guest edited special issues of the journals Deleuze Studies (‘Deleuze, Virginia Woolf and Modernism’; co-edited with Laci Mattison, 2013), Virginia Woolf Miscellany (‘Woolf and Materiality’, 2014) and Twentieth-Century Literature (‘Modernist Ethics and Posthumanism’; co-edited with Mark West, 2015). 

A series of publications in recent years build upon his interests in both modernism and literary animal studies. The Handbook to the Bloomsbury Group (Bloomsbury, 2018), co-edited with Stephen Ross, contains 20 chapters showcasing contemporary scholarship on the set of influential writers, artists and thinkers whose members included Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, E.M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell and Duncan Grant. The volume brings together overview essays with detailed illustrative case studies covering topics such as feminism, sexuality, empire, philosophy, class, nature, politics and the arts. Reading Literary Animals: Medieval to Modern (Routledge, 2019), co-edited with Karen Edwards and Jane Spencer, consists of 15 essays covering a range of questions concerning animals as they appear through literary history. The book covers a wide range of texts from medieval bestiaries and animals on the early modern stage to 18th-century lapdog poems and modern canine biographies, with chapters organised into five main sections: ‘Testing Metaphor’, ‘Plotting Agency’, ‘Inscribing Voice’, ‘Exploiting Bodies’ and ‘Loving Dogs’. Bringing together research that relates to both of these projects, he has published an article in Modern Fiction Studies on Katherine Mansfield and a chapter of The Edinburgh Companion to Animal Studies on David Garnett and Franz Kafka. 

Derek’s latest publications include two volumes that develop interests in reading Woolf and modernism in European and transnational contexts: Virginia Woolf, Europe, and Peace: Aesthetics and Theory, co-edited with Peter Adkins (Clemson UP/Liverpool UP, 2020) and Cross-Channel Modernisms, co-edited with Claire Davison and Jane Goldman (Edinburgh UP, 2020). Currently, he is completing an article on Katherine Mansfield, D. H. Lawrence, animality and medical history, the entry on the Bloomsbury Group for the Oxford Bibliographies in British and Irish Literature, and he is co-editing, with Linden Peach and Jane Goldman, Flush: A Biography for the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Virginia Woolf. His next monograph, Bloomsbury, Beasts and British Modernism, is close to completion. 


Derek’s supervision of PhD projects to date covers topics including modernist literature, the Anthropocene, hypnagogic states, medical humanities and speculative fiction. He would be keen to supervise doctoral research relating to any of his research interests.  


Since 2016, Derek has served on the Editorial Board of Woolf Studies Annual. In October 2017 he was appointed as the Literature Subject Editor for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism

He is a current or past member of the Modernist Studies Association, the British Association of Modernist Studies, the Société d'Etudes Modernistes, the International Virginia Woolf Society, Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, the Société d’Etudes Woolfiennes, the American Comparative Literature Association and the Katherine Mansfield Society. 

He has co-organised numerous conferences and events relating to his primary research interests. These include ‘Interceptions: Modernism’s Theory and Theory’s Modernism’ (Glasgow, 2010), ‘Contradictory Woolf: the 21st Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf’ (Glasgow, 2011), ‘Animal Humanities’ (Kent, 2015), ‘All Day Waves’ (Kent, 2015), ‘Cross-Channel Modernisms’ (Kent/Paris, 2015) and ‘Virginia Woolf, Europe and Peace: the 28th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf’ (Kent 2018). He is a founding member of the Kent Animal Humanities Network, which holds annual events for staff and students at the University. 

He has acted as a reader for various publishers and journals, including Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Stanford University Press, Edinburgh University Press, Routledge, Bloomsbury, Palgrave, Ohio State University Press, Review of English Studies, Modernism/modernity, Twentieth-Century Literature, LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory, Mosaic, Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture and Studies in the Novel

His administrative experience at Kent includes the roles of Director of Graduate Studies at the Paris campus (2018-2020), Director of Graduate Studies for MA programmes (2016-18) and Research Seminar Organiser (2014-15), as well as membership of the Policy and Planning Group, School and Faculty Graduate Studies Committees, Faculty Paris Marketing Advisory Board and University Programme Approval and Curriculum Design Project Stakeholder Group.    

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