James Smith


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Personal profile

Personal profile

James A. Smith is a literary scholar and political commentator. 

James's literary scholarship focuses on mid eighteenth-century literature, especially the work of Samuel Richardson and the reception of Shakespeare. He also writes about the history of literary criticism and critical theory: in particular the approaches of F.R. Leavis, Walter Benjamin, the British New Left, and the psychoanalysis of Jacques Lacan. 

James's writings on contemporary politics have appeared in the Independent and Tribune, as well as Newsweek, Jacobin and other media. He has been interviewed on Ireland's RTÉ Radio 1 and in the Guardian. He has given talks at political events and group meetings across the country. He also 'podcasts'. 

James welcomes media requests on any political topics or on work and the future of work.

His first book is Samuel Richardson and the Theory of Tragedy (Manchester University Press). Other People's Politics: Populism to Corbynism was published by Zer0 Books in 2019. Work Want Work: Labour and Desire at the End of Capitalism (co-written with Mareile Pfannebecker) appeared with Zed Books in 2020. A revised version appeared in German as Alles Ist Arbeit (Edition Nautlius, 2022), and a Chinese edition is under contract. 

James's PhD supervisions include Mikey Atienza's completed thesis on T.S. Eliot and creative/critical writing. He is currently on supervision teams for PhDs on late Victorian/Edwardian feminism, and - with colleagues in Media Arts and Management - work in the platform economy. 

He is happy to be contacted about graduate work on any literary or political/cultural topic, and by students wishing to study contemporary politics and media using critical theory approaches. 


Research interests

* Eighteenth-century literature, especially the novels of Samuel Richardson

* The reception of Shakespeare in the eighteenth century

* Cultural theory and literary criticism, their history and their application today

* Populism, digital culture, theories of work, the political left 


EN3233 Interrogations of Culture: Theory and Thinkers

EN3126: The Other Side of Enlightenment: the 18th Century in Literature, Theory, and Film

EN2324: Contemporary Debates in Literary Theory 

EN2120: Age of Oppositions, Literature 1660-1780

EN1105 Literature and Crisis

EN1107: Re-Orienting the Novel


Educational background

Dr Smith undertook his undergraduate and postgraduate study at the University of Manchester 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth


  • English literature
  • Samuel Richardson
  • Jacques Lacan
  • Walter Benjamin
  • Tragedy
  • Populism
  • Labour Party
  • Jeremy Corbyn
  • Donald Trump
  • Post-Work
  • Anti-work politics
  • Theories of work
  • eighteenth-century studies
  • COVID-19
  • Lockdowns

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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