Dr Rebecca Roach BA, MSc, DPhil

Dr Rebecca Roach

Department of English Literature
Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature

Contact details

Room 227 Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My teaching and research focuses on 20th and 21st century literature and culture across the Anglophone world, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between literature, media and book history.


  • BA English Language & Literature (University of Oxford)
  • MSc Literature & Modernity: 1900-Present  (University of Edinburgh)
  • DPhil English Literature (University of Oxford)


My teaching and research at the University of Birmingham focuses on contemporary literature. Prior to joining Birmingham I was a postdoctoral research associate at King’s College London, working on the European Research Council-funded project, “Ego-Media: The Impact of New Media on Forms and Practices of Self-Presentation” (2014-2019). Before this I completed a doctorate at the University of Oxford, a Masters at the University of Edinburgh and my undergraduate at the University of Oxford. Despite a very English accent, I was born in the USA and schooled there, Germany and in the British state school system. 


I teach on a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate modules concerning contemporary literature and culture.

Postgraduate supervision

I am interested in supervising projects on any aspect of 20th and 21st century literature related to my specific research interests.

Projects I would love to supervise:
How to Do Things with books in Contemporary Britain (or Iceland, or India, or Pitcairn!); publisher’s reject piles; Amazon’s algorithms; Book Tok; computer poetry; literature and the British Council/AHRC/UNESCO; Conservative government policy effects on the arts; Brum literary culture; tech memoirs; modernism’s contemporary afterlives; nonreading; mass writing; the art of editing; methods of World Literature; advice literature; big data approaches to literary culture; Women’s big books; audio books; literary imprints; reader data; born digital literary archives; live literature

Find out more - our PhD English Literature  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My research straddles twentieth and twenty-first century Anglophone literatures. I am particularly interested in the relation of literature and literary studies to wider culture. Research interests include digital cultures, life writing, book and media history (including reading communities), transnational modernism and its legacies, the institutionalisation of literary studies, literary and interdisciplinary methodologies, and the culture of celebrity as it interacts with literature.

My first book, Literature and the Rise of the Interview examines the rise of the interview in literary culture and was published by OUP in 2018.

My second book project, Machine Talk: Literature, Computing and Conversation, examines the intersection between literature and computing since WW2.

I also write about contemporary literary cultures: I am working on a book entitled The Social Life of Literature and the co-written digital publication, Ego Media, is forthcoming with Stanford UP.

Internally, I am a member of the Humanities & Social Sciences Ethical Review Board, with a particular interest in digital research ethics. Externally, I am on the editorial board of the European Journal of Life Writing and also edit the Modern Section of the Year's Work in English Studies.

Other activities

In addition to academic talks, I have given lectures at the Science Museum, the Library of Congress and been interviewed for the IEEE Spectrum magazine. I have co-curated exhibitions at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the Inigo Rooms, Somerset House London and, for Emory University Library, Atlanta.

I have a long-standing commitment to widening participation and public engagement and welcome enquires on these fronts.

I am also a member of the HASS Research Ethics Committee.


Highlight publications

Roach, RC 2018, Literature and the rise of the interview. Oxford University Press. <https://global.oup.com/academic/product/literature-and-the-rise-of-the-interview-9780198825418?sortField=8&resultsPerPage=60&view=Grid&facet_narrowbytype_facet=Academic%20Research&lang=en&cc=sa>

Roach, RC 2019, 'J. M. Coetzee’s aesthetic automatism', MFS - Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 65, no. 2, pp. 308-337. https://doi.org/10.1353/mfs.2019.0015

Roach, R 2018, 'Epilepsy, digital technology and the black-boxed self', New Media and Society, vol. 20, no. 8, pp. 2880-2897. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444817736926

Bradshaw, D, Marcus, L & Roach, RC (eds) 2016, Moving modernisms: motion, technology, and modernity. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Recent publications


Roach, R 2022, 'Expanding the history of humanities computing: Hugh Kenner’s conversational criticism', Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. https://doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqac066

Roach, R 2020, 'The role and function of author interviews in the contemporary Anglophone literary field', Book History, vol. 23, pp. 335-364. https://doi.org/10.1353/bh.2020.0009

Roach, RC & Lee, H 2018, '"Three words you must never say": Hermione Lee on Interviewing', Biography, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 270-286. https://doi.org/10.1353/bio.2018.0023

Roach, RC & Kerninon, J 2018, '"To Unreel a Whole Story": Julia Kerninon on Writers' Interviews', Biography, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 310-321. https://doi.org/10.1353/bio.2018.0025

Masschelein, A & Roach, RC 2018, 'Emergent Conversations: Bronwyn Davies on the Transformation of Interview Practices in the Social Sciences', Biography, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 256-269. https://doi.org/10.1353/bio.2018.0022

Roach, RC 2018, 'Hero and bad motherland: J. M. Coetzee's computational critique', Contemporary Literature, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 80-111. https://doi.org/10.3368/cl.59.1.80

Masschelein, A & Roach, RC 2018, 'Putting Things Together: Interviewing as Creative Practice', Biography, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 169-178. https://doi.org/10.1353/bio.2018.0018

Roach, RC 2016, '‘How Writers Work’: Interviewing the Author in Everyman', Textual Practice, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 645-667. https://doi.org/10.1080/0950236X.2015.1064013

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Roach, R 2020, Coetzee, Computers and Binary Thinking. in A van der Vlies & L Graham (eds), The Bloomsbury Handbook to J.M. Coetzee. Bloomsbury.

Roach, R 2020, “Do You Use a Pencil or a Pen?”: Author Interviews as Literary Advice. in A Masschelein & D De Geest (eds), Writing Manuals for the Masses. Palgrave Macmillan.


Roach, RC 2017, ‘The Lady Interviewer and her methods’: Chatter, Celebrity and Reading Communities. in C Clay, M DiCenzo, B Green & F Hackney (eds), Women's Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1918-1939: the Interwar Period. The Edinburgh History of Women's Periodical Culture in Britian, Edinburgh University Press.

Commissioned report

Roach, R 2019, Cross-Cultural Communication Theory: Basic English and Machine Translation at the Rockefeller Foundation. Rockefeller Archive Center. <https://rockarch.issuelab.org/resource/cross-cultural-communication-theory-basic-english-and-machine-translation-at-the-rockefeller-foundation.html>

Special issue

Roach, R 2022, 'Interview mediations in the classroom: forum contribution to special issue 'Teaching life writing: theory, methodology, and practice'', a/b: Auto/Biography Studies. <https://www.tandfonline.com/journals/RAUT>

Masschelein, A (Guest ed.) & Roach, RC (Guest ed.) 2018, 'Biography - An Interdisciplinary Quarterly: Interviewing as Creative Practice', Biography. <http://muse.jhu.edu/issue/38805>

Web publication/site

Roach, R, Saunders, M, Brant, C, Gallagher, R, Gee, L, Miller, A, Georgakopoulou, A, Kent, R, Peeters, S, Pers, ML, Ridsdale, L & McKinlay, AR, Ego Media, 2022, Web publication/site, Stanford University Press.

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