Liam Harrison

Liam Harrison

Department of English Literature
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

Phd title: Lateness and the Legacy of Modernism in Contemporary Literature
SupervisorsProfessor David James and Professor Andrzej Gasiorek
PhD English Literature


B.A. English Literature and History – The University of Sussex (2014)

M.Phil. Irish Writing (Anglo-Irish Literature) – Trinity College Dublin (2015)


Before starting at Birmingham in 2018, I worked in publishing in Dublin for two years at Gill Books. Prior to my time at Gill, I worked at Hodges Figgis bookshop and Trinity College Library. For my B.A. I undertook a joint honours English and History programme at the University of Sussex, moving then to Trinity College Dublin for an M.Phil. in Irish Writing which focused on the work of Samuel Beckett and Tom Murphy.

In 2017 I co-curated a digital exhibition on the life and work of Tom Murphy for Trinity College Library, with Emeritus Professor Nicholas Grene. I have written book reviews and articles for a wide variety of publications, including The Irish Times, 3:AM Magazine, Dublin Review of Books, and The Modernist Review.


My Ph.D. explores the legacy of modernism in contemporary literature, specifically examining how concepts of lateness and late style theorised by Theodor Adorno, Edward Said, and Ben Hutchinson, provide new ways of thinking about modernist legacies and ruptures. I particularly focus on the challenges of writing after Samuel Beckett, who Anthony Cronin famously named ‘the last modernist’. My project explores the lateness and lastness of Beckett’s modernism, across various sites of tension in contemporary fiction.

The sites covered in my project include: the limits of the possible, the city, the body, and the self – spanning authors as varied as J.G. Ballard, W.G. Sebald, J.M. Coetzee, Tom McCarthy, Zadie Smith, Rachel Cusk, and Teju Cole. Moreover, my research has a particular focus on Irish Modernism, and its ‘Modernist Afterlives’ as Paige Reynolds puts it,  in the work of Eimear McBride, Claire-Louise Bennett, and Mike McCormack, amongst others.

My research negotiates the triangulated relationships between lateness (Adorno, Said, Hutchinson), ‘Late Modernism’ (Tyrus Miller, Shane Weller, Thomas S. Davis) and modernist legacy (David James, Urmila Seshagiri, Laura Marcus), in an attempt to tease out the paradoxical possibilities in late forms. My project builds on Peter Boxall’s Since Beckett, which considers Beckett’s lateness and lastness as both ‘poetics of exhaustion, and a poetics of persistence’. The diminishment we see in late Beckett texts – Worstward Ho, Ill Seen Ill Said, Company, Stirrings Still – produces an aesthetic which appears undoubtedly terminal, yet the impossible trajectories of these texts find ways to contradictorily invent new and productive ways to ‘stir’, as Beckett puts it in Three Dialogues, ‘from the field of the possible’. My research explores the prominence of this contradictory, exhaustive aesthetic in fiction which engages with modernist legacies, and how forms of Beckettian lateness are ‘stirring still’ in contemporary literature.



‘“A banana with coffee is nice”: Unknown and Strange Things in the Work of Claire-Louise Bennett’. Love Takes Risks, The Poetics of Contemporary Small-Press Fiction Conference. University of East Anglia, 2019

Bailegangaire and the Post-Beckett Storytelling of Tom Murphy’. Beckett and the End of Literature Conference. University of Reading, 2017


Other Publications