Dr Rex Ferguson MA, MLitt, PhD

Dr Rex Ferguson

Department of English Literature
Lecturer in English Literature

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I joined the University of Birmingham in 2011 as a lecturer in Modern Literature, having previously taught and studied at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. My research focuses on the intersection between literature, law and philosophy from the early twentieth century onwards.


  • MA, University of Glasgow, 2004
  • M.Litt, University of Glasgow, 2006
  • PhD, University of Glasgow, 2009


Having received my undergraduate degree in English Literature and Philosophy from the University of Glasgow in 2004 I went on to complete an MLitt degree in ‘Modernities’ and a PhD at the same institution. In September 2010 I took up a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh. Prior to joining the University of Birmingham I was teaching in the Department of English Literature at the University of Glasgow.


I convene the core first-year module 'Literary Aesthetics after 1800' as well as contributing to its partner module 'Critical Practice'. In the second-year I teach on 'Victorian and Decadent Literature' . In the final year I run an option course on 'Law and Literature'.

In addition to this, I teach on the postgraduate module, 'Victorian Modernity' and I convene a module entitled 'Country and City' on the Birmingham Foundation Academy.

Postgraduate supervision

I currently supervise students working on a range of topics but would be very happy to hear from prospective students working in the following areas:

  • Twentieth-century Fiction
  • Philosophy and Literature (particularly phenomenological approaches)
  • Cultural approaches (particularly those interested in the history of moods, emotions, objects and embodiment)
  • Law and Literature
  • Critical Theory


My research is shaped by my engagement with a cultural studies approach to literary analysis and by my interest in modern continental philosophy (particularly phenomenology). As such, my work often examines the historical specificity of texts, not with a view to providing a context for that work's significance, but in orde to explicate with more precision the cultural moment which it contributes to creating. Placing texts, artefacts and disciplines up against each other, my intention is to offer new versions of what Walter Benjamins described as constellations (ie. the ideas/objects/concepts/spaces that shape our being-in-the-world). My first monograph is a case in point: Criminal Law and the Modernist Novel (Cambridge University Press) connects the modernist writing of E. M. Forster, Ford Madox Ford and Marcel Proust with developments in the criminal trial, arguing that both discourses contribute to a culture in which the modern concept of experience is disappearing. In the book, I thus compare the form and content of modernist narratives with their 'realist' parents - the novel and trial in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: both entities which, I argue, are very much based on the 'experience' of modern philosphy and science. In tandem with the authors named above, this work utilised the critical theory of, amongst others, Wilhelm Dilthey, Sigmund Freud, Viktor Shklovsky, Hans Georg Gadamer and Giorgio Agmben.

My second book project (provisionally entitled Identifying the Subject) will build upon this interest in law by examining a range of identification techniques (photographic mugshot, fingerprint, DNA analysis) and suggesting that they form inherent connections with various theoretical models of identity and literary representaitons of subjectivity. I have already begun this work with an article on fingerprints, Freud and Conrad that has been published by New Formations. Dealing with the ways in which bodies are made to give up signs of their identity, this book will engage intimately with how our embodied presence is apprehended - the phenomenological basis of my work, which has been extended via articles on material waste, synaesthesia and hands - will therefore also be brought out.

Other activities

I am study abroad tutor for the School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies. I am also Postgraduate (Research) admissions tutor for the division of English Literature.

In recent years I have presented papers at international conferences in St Andrews, Cambridge and Boston as well as co-organising a one day symposium entitled ‘Reading the Reading Group: Proust in the Community’ at the University of Glasgow.

I have acted as peer reviewer for the internationally acclaimed journal Law and Literature (University of California Press) and I am a member of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities and the Scottish Network of Modernists.



  • Criminal Law and the Modernist Novel: Experience on Trial (Cambridge University Press, 2013).


  • 'The Literary Hand: Handwriting, Fingerprint, Typewriting', Critical Quarterly (forthcoming)
  • 'Personal Impressions: Fingerprints, Freud and Conrad', New Formations (forthcoming, 2013).
  • ‘Gatsby and Garbage’, in Aesthetic Fatigue: Modernity and the Language of Waste, eds. John F.M. Clark and John Scanlan (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013).
  • ‘From Experience to Expertise: Witnessing in the Criminal Trial and Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier’ (10,000 words), in Law and Humanities 4.2 (December 2010).
  • ‘Blind Noise and Deaf Visions: Henry Green’s Caught, Synaesthesia and the Blitz’, in Journal of Modern Literature 33.1 (Fall 2009).