Dr Rona Cran BA, MA, PhD

Photograph of Dr Rona Cran

Department of English Literature
Lecturer in Twentieth-Century American Literature
Co-Director of American and Canadian Studies Centre

Contact details

Room 416, Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My teaching and research focusses on the literature and culture of twentieth-century North America, with a particular emphasis on collage, networks of influence, and the poetry and art of New York City.


  • BA (University of York)
  • MA (University College London)
  • PhD (University College London)


I received my PhD from University College London, with a thesis on collage in twentieth-century art, literature, and culture (focussing on Joseph Cornell, William Burroughs, Frank O’Hara, and Bob Dylan). My teaching and research centres on the literature and culture of twentieth-century North America, with a particular emphasis on collage, networks of influence, and the poetry and art of New York City. I am currently working on my second book, examining the production and dissemination of poetry and art by and amongst the so-called 'second generation' of New York School poets.


  • Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture (Convenor)
  • Foundation in Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture (Convenor)
  • The Twenties: North American Literature and Society (Convenor)
  • MA Literature and Culture: Textualities and Materialities (Convenor)
  • Plays and Performance
  • Prose
  • Poetry
  • Digital Cultures
  • Research Skills in American and Canadian Studies

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome research proposals on any aspect of twentieth century American literature or visual culture related to my research interests.


My first book was entitled Collage in Twentieth-Century Art, Literature, and Culture: Joseph Cornell, William Burroughs, Frank O’Hara, and Bob Dylan. Exploring the influence of Europe’s artist-émigrés on New York culture from World War I onwards, I argued that collage was an enduringly vital practice that was central to modernism and its aftermaths, transforming the ways in which literature was written and art and music was made. I am currently co-editing a follow up collection called The Poetics of Collage, which includes work on Allen Ginsberg, Adrian Henri, Joseph Cornell, and Joe Brainard, among others.

My current research examines the New York literary scene in the 1960s and 1970s, with the aim of developing new thinking around the accepted narrative of mid-to-late 20th-century American poetry. Taking Frank O’Hara’s death as its point of departure, it explores the aftermath, for a literary community, of the loss of a key creative figure, and interrogates the suggestion, made by John Ashbery, that O’Hara’s death was ‘the biggest secret loss to American poetry’.  Focussing on writers including Ted Berrigan, Eileen Myles, Bernadette Mayer, Joe Brainard, and John Ashbery, my research examines the development of radical poetic centres at a time when experiments in community-building were crucial to the rejection of conservative culture, and elucidates the social systems and networks of influence within this mid-century New York coterie. It also considers the struggle between American individuality and involvement with collaborative movements inspired by the European avant-garde, and draws links between New York and Liverpool during the period.

I am also interested in cultural studies and contemporary print and visual cultures within the fields of modernism and American literature, and in transnational exchange.

Other activities

I write for the Times Literary Supplement, New Walk Magazine, and the European Beat Studies Network (EBSN).  I am a member of the EBSN, the British Association for American Studies (BAAS), the Modern Language Association (MLA), and the Literary London Society.

Conference Organisation/Co-organisation

  • Unpublished America, American and Canadian Studies Centre, University of Birmingham,  Summer 2016
  • The Poetics of Collage, Royal Holloway/Centre for Creative Collaboration (C4CC), Spring 2014
  • Co-convenor, Graduate Research Seminar Series, UCL, 2010/11
  • UCL Graduate Conference, London, March 2010
  • Naked Lunch@50 Symposium and Book Launch, Paris, July 2009

I have a long-standing interest in public engagement, widening participation, and equal opportunities in academia and welcome any enquiries pertaining to any of these.



  • Networks of Influence: New York Poetry, 1960-1975 (in progress)
  • Collage in Twentieth-Century Art, Literature and Culture: Joseph Cornell, William Burroughs, Frank O’Hara, and Bob Dylan (Ashgate, 2014).

Essays and journal articles

  • ‘Men with a Pair of Scissors: Joe Brainard and John Ashbery’, in On Joe Brainard, ed. Yasmine Shamma (in progress)
  • ‘Mapping Identity in The Easter Parade’, in Richard Yates, ed. Jennifer Daly (McFarland and co., forthcoming July 2017)
  • ‘Gastric Criticism: Digesting Naked Lunch’, in Space, Taste and Affect, ed. Emily Falconer (Routledge, forthcoming January 2018)
  • ‘no kings and queens of poetry’: Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg, New Walk 12 (Summer 2016)
  • ‘“all writing is in fact cut ups”:  the UK Web Archive and Beat literature’. Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities (Summer 2015)
  • ‘“Everything is permitted”: William Burroughs’ Cut-ups and European Art’. Comparative American Studies 11.3 (September 2013): 300-313
  • ‘“the medium is the message”: Re-reading William Burroughs, from Junky to Nova Express’. HARTS & Minds: the Journal of Humanities and Arts 1.1 (Spring 2013)
  • ‘“a body in pieces”: William Burroughs and the Torso Murderer’. Opticon1826 (May 2011)