Dr Rona Cran BA, MA, PhD

Photograph of Dr Rona Cran

Department of English Literature
Senior Lecturer in Twentieth-Century American Literature
Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of North America

Contact details

Room 403, Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My scholarship is interdisciplinary and centres on the literature and culture of New York City, queer writing, and modern American poetry.


  • BA (University of York)
  • MA (University College London)
  • PhD (University College London)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


I am a Londoner who grew up in Kenya. I joined Birmingham as a Teaching Fellow in 2015, and as a Lecturer in 2016, where I have broadened the teaching of modern American poetic texts and contexts. I previously taught at University College London, where I received my PhD, and I also spent several years working in student support and in the educational charity sector. 


This year, I'm convening and teaching my final-year and MA specialist subject modules 'Multiple Voices: New York City Poetics' and 'Modern American Poetry'. I also contribute lectures to 'Gender and Sexuality' and 'Discovering North American Literature', and teach on the MA module 'Modernism and Contemporary Literature'. I was the 2020/21 winner of the Guild Outstanding Teaching Award.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome research proposals on 20th century American poetry, New York City literature and culture (particularly the New York School, queer writing, and/or HIV/AIDS), collage, textual materiality, and other aspects of literature and culture relating to my research.

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


My scholarship centres on the literature and culture of New York City, queer writing, and modern American poetry.

My first book was entitled Collage in Twentieth-Century Art, Literature, and Culture: Joseph Cornell, William Burroughs, Frank O’Hara, and Bob Dylan (Ashgate, 2014). Exploring the influence of Europe’s artist-émigrés on New York City culture from 1912 onwards, it argued that collage was both a transformative practice and a provocative theoretical model that was central to modernism and its aftermaths, revolutionizing the ways in which literature was written and art and music was made during the twentieth century.

I am currently writing my second monograph, Everyday Rebellion: Resistance and New York City Poetry, 1960-1995, which combines close reading, creative writing, and archival research to explore the relationship between poetry and infrapolitics from the counterculture to the AIDS crisis, and to argue that socially-situated poetry offers particular sites of resistance. 

In 2020 I was awarded an AHRC Research Networking Grant for the project Creating the Network for New York School Studies. The project will create an official global Network designed to offer scholars, poets, creative organizations, and members of the public an intellectual and creative community within the wide and growing field of New York School studies. In 2018 was awarded a British Academy Small Grant (2018-2020) for the digital humanities project Joe Brainard and the New York School: Material Texts and Digital Cultures (or 'Make Your Own Brainard'), which has put the work of New York School artist and poet Joe Brainard into dialogue with digital media and digital media users via an interactive website (www.makeyourownbrainard.com) and examines questions about hegemonic narratives surrounding academic impact, funding for the arts, and the digital humanities.

I have written articles and chapters on the ecopoetics of Anne Waldman's Life Notes, Joe Brainard and queer optimismNew York poetry, American women poet-editors and the mimeograph revolution, Joe Brainard and John AshberyAllen Ginsberg and Frank O’HaraAllen Ginsberg and collageplace, space and identity in Richard Yates, William Burroughs, affect, and taste, and William Burroughs and art.

Other activities

I co-direct the Centre for the Study of North America. I also write for the Times Literary Supplement, and am a member of the European Beat Studies Network (EBSN), the Modern Language Association (MLA), and the British Association for American Studies (BAAS). Recent and forthcoming events I’ve curated include:


Highlight publications

Cran, R 2014, Collage in Twentieth-Century Art, Literature, and Culture: Joseph Cornell, William Burroughs, Frank O'Hara, and Bob Dylan. Ashgate. <https://www.routledge.com/Collage-in-Twentieth-Century-Art-Literature-and-Culture-Joseph-Cornell/Cran/p/book/9781138743335>

Cran, R 2021, 'Poems in the world: the ecopoetics of Anne Waldman’s Life Notes', Humanities , vol. 10, no. 1, 50. https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010050

Cran, R 2021, '‘too beautiful’: useless art and the queerly optimistic Make Your Own Brainard Project', Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, vol. 2021, no. 00, pp. 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqab021

Cran, R 2020, 'Space occupied: women poet-editors and the mimeograph revolution in mid-century New York City', Journal of American Studies. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021875820001073

Cran, R 2020, Multiple voices: New York City poetry. in R Wilson (ed.), New York: a literary history. vol. 1, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, pp. 180-193. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108557139

Recent publications


Cran, R 2018, 'Material language for protest: collage in Allen Ginsberg's 'Wichita Vortex Sutra'', Textual Practice, vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 669-689. https://doi.org/10.1080/0950236X.2018.1517105

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Cran, R 2021, Mess, taste, and gastric criticism: digesting Naked Lunch. in SE Gontarski (ed.), Burroughs Unbound: William S Burroughs and the Performance of Writing. 1 edn, Bloomsbury Publishing. <https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/burroughs-unbound-9781501362187>

Cran, R 2019, "Men with a pair of scissors": Joe Brainard and John Ashbery’s Eclecticism. in Y Shamma (ed.), Joe Brainard's Art. Edinburgh University Press.

Book/Film/Article review

Cran, R 2021, 'Hilarious and strange: Putting the work of Dennis Cooper in its colourful context' TLS - The Times Literary Supplement, vol. 2021, no. February 5th. <https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/dennis-cooper-wrong-diarmuid-hester-review-rona-cran/>

Cran, R 2020, 'Another world, in this one: Teju Cole's Switzerland', Journal of American Studies, vol. 54, no. 4, E44. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021875820000894

Cran, R 2020, 'Review: Interviews from the Edge: 50 Years of Conversations about Writing and Resistance. Ed. by Mark Yakitch and John Biguenet (New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2019).', Modern Language Review, vol. 115, no. 3.

Cran, R 2019, 'Review: the Spiritual Imagination of the Beats by John David Calonne', Modern Language Review, vol. 114, no. 1, pp. 135-137.

Cran, R 2019, 'Review: Spatial Poetics: Second Generation New York School Poetry. Pp. v+206 (Oxford English Monographs). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Hardback, £60.', The Review of English Studies. https://doi.org/10.1093/res/hgz073

Cran, R 2018, 'Fiction: Review: Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo', Times Literary Supplement.

Cran, R 2018, 'Flowing across time: Review: White Girls by Hilton Als', Times Literary Supplement.

Cran, R 2018, 'On See What Can Be Done by Lorrie Moore' Times Literary Supplement, vol. 6016. <https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/stuff-2/>

Cran, R 2018, 'Review: Do You Have A Band? Poetry and Punk Rock in New York City by Daniel Kane', ASAP Journal (The Association for the Study of Arts of the Present). <http://asapjournal.com/do-you-have-a-band-poetry-and-punk-rock-in-new-york-city-rona-cran/>

Cran, R 2018, 'Review: Tim Lawrence - Life and Death on the New York Dancefloor 1980-1983', European Journal of American Culture, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 173-194. https://doi.org/10.1386/ejac.37.2.173_5

Other contribution

Cran, R 2020, ‘Safe in your thoughtful arms': the radical friendship of Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg. History Workshop Online. <https://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/safe-in-your-thoughtful-arms-the-radical-friendship-of-frank-ohara-and-allen-ginsberg/>

Cran, R 2019, Joe Brainard and the New York School: Material Texts and Digital Cultures (or 'Make Your Own Brainard'). University of Birmingham. <https://www.makeyourownbrainard.com/>

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