Dr Rex Ferguson MA, MLitt, PhD

Photograph of Dr Rex Ferguson

Department of English Literature
Senior Lecturer in Modern Literature

Contact details

Arts Building, Room 113
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


  • 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

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


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.


Recent publications


Ferguson, R 2021, Identification Practices in Twentieth-Century Fiction. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198865568.001.0001

Ferguson, R, Littlefield, MM & Purdon, J (eds) 2021, The Art of Identification: Forensics, Surveillance, Identity. Pennsylvania State University Press. <https://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-09057-3.html#>

Ferguson, R 2013, Criminal Law and the Modernist Novel: Experience on Trial. Cambridge University Press.


Ferguson, R 2017, 'In search of lost time and the attunement of jealousy', Philosophy and Literature, vol. 41, no. 1A, pp. 213-232. https://doi.org/10.1353/phl.2017.0031

Ferguson, R 2016, 'Gumbrecht, Faulkner and the presence of heat', Textual Practice, vol. 31, no. 7, pp. 1361-1378. https://doi.org/10.1080/0950236X.2016.1237995

Ferguson, R 2014, 'The Literary Hand: Handwriting, Fingerprinting, Typewriting', Critical Quarterly, vol. 56, no. 1, pp. 40-55. https://doi.org/10.1111/criq.12087

Ferguson, R 2013, 'Personal Impressions: Fingerprints, Freud and Literary Impressionism', New Formations, vol. 79.

Ferguson, R 2010, 'From Experience to Expertise: Witnessing in the Criminal Trial and Ford Madox Ford's 'The Good Soldier'', Law and Humanities, vol. 4, no. 2.

Ferguson, R 2009, 'Blind Noise and Deaf Visions: Henry Green's Caught, Synaesthesia and the Blitz', Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 102-116. https://doi.org/10.2979/JML.2009.33.1.102

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Ferguson, R 2019, Registering the charge: mood and Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet. in Mood: interdisciplinary perspectives, new theories. 1st edn, Routledge, London.

Ferguson, R 2019, Trials and the impressionism of advocacy. in S Stern, M Del Mar & B Meyler (eds), Oxford Handbook of Law and Humanities. Oxford Handbooks, Oxford University Press, Oxford. <https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-oxford-handbook-of-law-and-humanities-9780190695620>

Ferguson, R 2018, Legal Modernism. in K Dolin (ed.), Law and Literature. Cambridge Critical Concepts, Cambridge University Press.


Ferguson, R, Clark, JFM & Scanlan, J 2013, Gatsby and Garbage. in J Scanlan & J Clark (eds), Aesthetic Fatigue: Modernity and the Language of Waste. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, pp. 206-219.

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