Dr Zara Dinnen

Photograph of Dr Zara Dinnen

Department of English Literature
Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I joined Birmingham in September 2013 and teach modern and contemporary literature and culture. My research interests are in contemporary literature, film, art in relation to digital culture, and new media.


  • PhD in English, Birkbeck, University of London (2012)
  • MA in American Literature and Culture, University of Leeds (2007)
  • BA in English and History of Art, University of Leeds (2005)


My undergraduate and MA were both undertaken at Leeds, where I studied in the School of English and the School of Fine Art, History of Art, and Cultural Studies. I completed my PhD at Birkbeck in 2012, with the thesis “Mixed Media: Representations of the digital in American culture”.


Across the undergraduate and graduate programmes, I teach on modules on digital culture, contemporary literature and culture, and critical theory. I supervise at MA and PhD level (see supervision).

Postgraduate supervision

I am currently supervising projects on girlhood and dystopian YA fiction; contemporary literature and new media; and meshworks of falling in post 9/11 US culture.

I would be interested in receiving proposals for postgraduate projects on any themes related to my research (contemporary literature and technology; new media studies; popular culture; contemporary American literature, visual culture, film). Please get in touch with any queries.


My research revolves around representations of digital media in literary and popular culture. My first monograph explores what I term, ‘the digital banal’. The digital banal describes the way we encounter new media as already boring, and so are unable to engage with the novelty of our mediational everyday lives. In this project I consider realist/reality narratives of contemporary life lived with digital technology, and work to recover the novel conditions of becoming-with technology latent in otherwise banal everyday occurrences.

My interest in literature and new media has also led to a series of Leverhulme/BA funded workshops, co-organised with Dr Sam McBean (QMUL) on “Mediating Contemporary Literature”, to take place in the academic year 2016/17.

My current research is more particularly interested in popular depictions of computation as mighty and powerful obfuscation. Here I am interested in the figures of hackers and users as well as displays of complex computation that resist narrativization. I am looking at Hollywood films, comics, and documentaries, as well as popular press reporting of new user/hacker sovereignties.

Other activities

With Dr Sam McBean (QMUL) I am convening a series of BA/Leverhulme funded workshops on “Mediating Contemporary Literature”.

I am a founding executive committee member of the British Association of Contemporary Literary Studies.

From January 2017, I will be the School Equality & Diversity representative.

From 2009-2015 I co-convened the Contemporary Fiction Seminar (CFS) at Institute of English Studies with Dr Tony Venezia at Birkbeck, University of London. The series hosted guest speakers and panels to talk across a range of fields. As part of this Seminar we also convened a series of AHRC Research Skills Enrichment workshops on Researching Contemporary Culture in Summer 2014. See the CFS website for an archive of all activities.

In March 2014 I convened the first International conference on the work of Jennifer Egan. An interview with Jennifer Egan which took place as part of the event has been published at Post45.


The Digital Banal: New Media and American Literature and Culture, Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2018.

Eds. Zara Dinnen and Robyn Warhol, The Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Narrative Theories, Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming 2018.

“Cinema and the Unnarratability of Computation” in The Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Narrative Theories, eds. Zara Dinnen and Robyn Warhol, Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming 2018.

‘Understanding the Funny Military Music Video’. Journal of American Studies, 50.4 (November 2016): 899-921

‘Exaptation and the Digital Now’. Co-authored article with Rob Gallagher, Alex Myers, Daniel Rourke. Media-N Journal 10.1 (2014)

‘Breaking out that Perl Script: The imaging and imagining of code in The Social Network and Catfish’. European Journal of American Culture. 32.2 (2013)

‘Things that Matter: Representing Everyday Technological Things in Comics’. Studies in Comics. 3.2. Special Issue on Comics and Contemporary Cultural Theory. (2013)

‘In the mix: the potential convergence of literature and new media in Jonathan Lethem’s ‘The Ecstasy of Influence’’. Journal of Narrative Theory. 42.2 (2012)

Select short pieces, interviews, reviews

“This is all artificial”: An Interview with Jennifer Egan’, Post45, (May 2016)

‘Review of Feminist Surveillance Studies’ Eds. Dubrofsky and Magnet. New Formations 86, special issue on ‘Sexism’ (2016)

Review of Lori Emerson’s Reading Writing Interfaces’. Computational Culture 5 (2016)

ScarJo’s Face: A Mediation on the Digital’, In Media Res (2015)

‘Talking Contemporary Fiction: A conversation,’ with Bianca Leggett and Tony Venezia. C21: Journal of 21st Century Writings. 3.1 (2014)

Digital Metaphors: Editor’s Introduction’. Alluvium 2.6 (2013)

 ‘Early career researchers: ever thought about teaching in schools?’ Guardian Higher Education Network (12 April 2013)

Pictures of Self-Portraits’, In Media Res (2012)

Two Jonathans: Writing on comics in essays’. Invited post for Comics Forum (2012)

‘Review of Mark McGurl’s The Program Era’. Journal of American Studies. 46: 2 (2012)

Androids in the Academy’. Alluvium. 1.5 (2012)

Interview with Jonathan Lethem’. Dandelion. 2. Podcast. (2011)