Samuel Gormley


My DPhil research, supported by the Wolfson Foundation, examines a small corpus of contemporary speculative novels in French through the dual lens of extinction and survival. I am particularly interested in the ways in which the concept of “the human” has, since the late-20th century, become an increasingly fragile and contingent category, especially in the wake of developments in biotechnology and biomedicine which, in many recent novels, herald the “end of the human” in both literal and symbolic senses. My thesis comprises four chapters dedicated to novels by Marie Darrieussecq, Michel Houellebecq, Jean-Christophe Rufin, and Antoine Volodine.

More broadly, my research focuses on the concept of “life itself” and its plasticity and mutability across intertwining discourses in science and literature. My research draws widely on philosophical and theoretical work in nonhuman and posthuman theory and the new materialisms to argue for a renewed attention to novel forms of “the human” emerging in contemporary fiction. I argue for the importance of speculative modes of literature in the twenty-first century, especially for imagining possible trans-/post-/nonhuman futures and the anxieties these imagined futures elicit in 21st-century cultural discourses. 

I received my BA and MSt degrees in French from St. Hugh’s and Merton respectively. I have worked in modernist poetry and travel writing, especially the work of Paul Morand and Blaise Cendrars. My Masters dissertation (supervised by Michael Sheringham, All Souls) examines the links between literature, travel, and music in the oeuvre of Swiss traveler Nicolas Bouvier. My wider research interests include contemporary North American fiction, weird fiction (especially the work of Jeff VanderMeer), and all aspects of contemporary culture.


I am the lead applicant and co-convenor of the 2018-19 network “Life Itself in Theory and Practice”, funded by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH). The interdisciplinary network brings together researchers and practitioners in the sciences and humanities to explore the shifting meanings of “life” across cultural discourses, literature and film, and the concrete practices of scientific research. Each term, the network organises two research seminars and one lecture from an invited guest speaker. This year, we are very pleased to welcome Dr. Martin Crowley (Cambridge), Prof. Deborah Levitt (New School, New York), and the prize-winning ceramicist Salvatore Arancio.

For further information, please visit the the network’s webpage at or contact us at We are also on Twitter @lifeitselfox.

Forthcoming publications

“Scarred Landscapes, Hybrid Spaces, and the Pitfalls of Technological Modernity in Paul Morand’s U.S.A.-1927”, Anglosphere: Perspectives on Literature, History, and Culture (University of Kielce) vol.1 no.1

The Southern Reach Trilogy and Borne by Jeff VanderMeer” (fiction review essay), Configurations, vol. 27 no. 1 (Winter 2019).

Teaching and Mentoring

I taught Samuel Beckett’s En attendant Godot (2 seminars and 2 tutorials) to Prelims students at St. Hugh’s College in Michaelmas 2016.

I am a mentor in French at Merton College, as well as a mentor for existing graduates within the Medieval and Modern Languages Faculty.

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