Dr Rex Ferguson MA, MLitt, PhD

Dr Rex Ferguson

Department of English Literature
Lecturer in Modern Literature

Contact details

Arts Building, Room 113
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 currently teach on the first-year module ‘Prose’ and on my own third-year special option ‘Law and Literature’. I also convene ‘Theories of the Modern’ which runs as part of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century pathway on the MA Literature and Culture.

Postgraduate supervision

I have supervised students on a range of topics related to the literature of the twentieth century and currently supervise projects on Autopoeisis and Metafiction, Freud and Modernism, and Orwell and Law.

I 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 order 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 philosophy and science.

My current research project builds upon this interest in law by examining a range of identification techniques (photographic mugshots, fingerprints, DNA analysis) and suggesting that they form inherent connections with various theoretical models of identity and literary representations of subjectivity. This work has also been behind my founding of an AHRC funded research network entitled ‘The Art of Identification’, details of which can be found at http://artofidentification.com.

Other activities

I am currently Deputy Director of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. 

I regularly act as a reader for Cambridge University Press and for the journals Law and Literature and Modernist Cultures. I am a member of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities and lecture on the Scottish Universities International Summer School.




  • ‘Gumbrecht, Faulkner and the Presence of Heat’, Textual Practice (forthcoming, 2015).
  • In Search of Lost Time and the Attunement of Jealousy’, Philosophy and Literature 38.2, October 2014.
  • ‘The Literary Hand: Handwriting, Fingerprinting, Typewriting’, Critical Quarterly 56.1, April 2014.
  • ‘Personal Impressions: Fingerprints, Freud and Literary Impressionism’, New Formations 79, Autumn 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).


  • War Trauma and English Modernism: T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence * Reading the Ruins: Modernism, Bombsites and British Culture, in English 62(236).