Dr John Attridge

B.A. Hons (University of Sydney) Ph.D. (University of Sydney)
School of the Arts and Media


+61 2 9385 4484
+61 2 9385 6812
Room 228, Robert Webster
Fields: Comparative Literature Studies, British and Irish Literature, North American Literature, Literature in French
Tags: School of the Arts and Media

I am a Lecturer in English in the School of the Arts and Media. I completed my PhD at the University of Sydney in 2007 and taught at the Université Paris 7 before starting at UNSW in 2009. My research is on the cultural history of European modernism, and I have particular research interests in Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, Henry James and Marcel Proust. My essays on Conrad, Ford, James and Flann O'Brien have appeared in journals such as ELH, Modern Fiction Studies, Modernism/modernity and The Times Literary Supplement


I am a Lecturer in English in the School of the Arts and Media. I completed my PhD at the University of Sydney in 2007 and taught at the Université Paris 7 before starting at UNSW in 2009. My research is on Anglo-American and French modernisms, and especially Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, Henry James and Marcel Proust. My essays on Conrad, Ford, James and Flann O'Brien have appeared in journals such as ELH, The Henry James Review, Modern Fiction Studies, Modernism/modernity and The Times Literary Supplement.

My book manuscript, The Invisible Vocation: Modernism, Impressionism and Professional Society (under review), examines the literary impressionism of Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford and Henry James in the context of professionalism and occupational specialization. I posit that Marcel Proust's paradoxical phrase "invisible vocation" captures a basic tension in the idea of a professional novelist: works of literature, and especially novels, are committed in a variety of ways to generalness and wholeness, but these commitments sit uneasily with the modernist impulse to see art as a specialized professional occupation. Approaching literary impressionism not as a stylistic technique or compositional rhetoric but as a much broader vocational practice, I suggest that impressionism was one of the principal vocabularies in which Conrad, Ford and James formulated their equivocal responses to the rise of professional society.

I am developing a research project on the concept of trust in literature from the first half of the twentieth century, provisionally titled "Liberal Trust in the Age of Catastrophe: Imagining Social Order in English and French Fiction 1902-1953".  Trust is a central theme in the tradition of liberal social thought. It was, as John Locke wrote in 1663, the “bond” of liberal society, but this traditional liberal ideal of trust came to seem inadequate to sustain harmonious collective life in an age of Gesellschaften – of mass societies governed by large complex states.[i] The end of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth saw the classical tradition of liberal thought confronted with an ever more urgent and intractable set of economic, social and political problems, leading writers like Eric Hobsbawm and Marcel Gauchet to refer to a twentieth-century "crisis of liberalism". This period of crisis, which reached its peak, in Hobsbawm's account, between 1914 and 1945, coincides with the moment in literary history that Nathalie Sarraute, writing in 1956, retrospectively dubbed "L'Ere du soupçon" - an "Age of Suspicion" in which writers, and especially novelists, were beset by a crisis of faith in the traditional categories of literary creation. This project aims to chart the intersection between this crisis of faith in the institutions of literature and the ideological crisis of liberalism, focusing, in particular, on a crisis in the traditional liberal concept of trust. Trust became a major theme for such key modernist writers as André Gide, Marcel Proust, D.H. Lawrence, Elizabeth Bowen and Samuel Beckett, and their fictional portrayals of trust, secrecy and betrayal can tell us much about the intellectual history of trust during this period. I also hope to show, however, that the experiments with literary form that became necessary in an "age of suspicion" were themselves conditioned by the crisis of liberal trust, and can be read as literary reimaginings of the possibility of social order.  

[i] John Locke, Political Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 132. From Essays on the Laws of Nature (1663). 



    • Attridge J; Rosenquist R, 2013, Incredible modernism: Literature, trust and deception, Ashgate Publishing Ltd

    Book Chapters

    • Attridge J, 2015, 'Mind, body and embarrassment in Henry James's The Awkward Age', in Taylor J (ed.), Modernism and Affect: Feeling in Modern Literature and Culture, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 20 - 38
    • Attridge J, 2014, ''A taboo on the mention of taboo': Englishness and taciturnity in Parade's End and André Maurois' Les Silences du colonel Bramble', in Hawkes R; Chantler A (ed.), Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End: The First World War, Culture, and Modernity, Rodopi, Amsterdam, pp. 23 - 37
    • Attridge J, 2014, 'Mythomaniac modernism: lying and bullshit in Flann O'Brien', in McDonald R; Murphet J (ed.), Strange Enlightenments: Flann O'Brien and Modernism, Bloomsbury, New York, pp. 27 - 40
    • Attridge J, 2013, 'Episodic trust: Self, society and sociology in A la recherche du temps perdu', in Incredible Modernism: Literature, Trust and Deception, Ashgate Publishing Ltd, pp. 199 - 213
    • Attridge J, 2013, 'Eclecticism and its discontents: Les Ecrits nouveaux (1917-22) and La Revue européenne (1923-31)', in Brooker P; Bru S; Thacker A; Weikop C (ed.), The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume III: Europe 1880 - 1940, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 203 - 218
    • Attridge J, 2013, 'Introduction: Literature, trust and deception', in Attridge J; Rosenquist R (ed.), Incredible Modernism: Literature, Trust and Deception, edn. 2013, Ashgate, Farnham, pp. 1 - 20
    • Attridge J, 2010, 'Murray Bail', in Shaffer BW (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction, Wiley-Blackwell, UK
    • Attridge J, 2010, 'Liberalism and Modernism in the Edwardian Era: New Liberals at Ford's English Review', in Harding J (ed.), Ford Madox Ford, Modernist Magazines and Editing, Rodopi, Amsterdam, pp. 169 - 184
    • Attridge J, 2008, ''We Will Listen to None but Specialists': Ford, the rise of specialization, and the English Review', in Gasiorek A; Moore D (ed.), Ford Madox Ford. Literary Networks and Cultural Transformations, Rodopi, Amsterdam, pp. 29 - 42

    Journal articles

    • Attridge J, 2014, 'Nonsense, ordinary language philosophy, and flann o'brien's the third policeman', MFS Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 60, no. 2, pp. 298 - 319, http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/mfs.2014.0028
    • Attridge J, 2013, 'Two types of secret agency: Conrad, causation and popular spy fiction', Texas Studies in Literature and Language, vol. 55, no. 2, pp. 125 - 158
    • Attridge J, 2012, 'Review essay: The Saddest Tory (review of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End)', Modernism/Modernity, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 799 - 803
    • Attridge J, 2011, '"Human expertness": Professionalism, training, and the prefaces to the New York Edition', The Henry James Review, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 29 - 44
    • Attridge J, 2011, 'The Lesson of the Master: Learning and Cognition in What Maisie Knew', Sydney Studies in English, vol. 37, pp. 22 - 43
    • Attridge J, 2010, 'Review essay: Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker, eds, The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume I, Britain and Ireland 1880 - 1955 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)', Katherine Mansfield Studies, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 196- - 201
    • Attridge J, 2010, '"The yellow-dog thing": Joseph Conrad, verisimilitude, and professionalism', ELH: English Literary History, vol. 77, no. 2, pp. 267 - 296, http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/elh.0.0081
    • Attridge J, 2009, 'Review essay: Paris, capital of the nineteenth-century novel?', Modernism/Modernity, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 167 - 171, http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/mod.0.0055
    • Attridge J, 2008, 'Steadily and whole: Ford Madox Ford and modernist sociology', Modernism/Modernity, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 297 - 315
    • Attridge J, 2004, 'Detourism: Murray Bail's photographic fiction', Journal of Commonwealth Literature, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 69 - 91, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0021989404047047


I convene "ARTS2036: Modernism Text and Screen" and "ARTS1031: Introduction to English: Early Modern to Modern". I welcome PhD and Honours projects on modernist and contemporary literature, the history of authorship, the history and theory of the novel and literary periodicals and little magazines.

Honours and prizes

Bruce Harkness Young Conrad Scholar Award 2010

Harry Ransom Center Fellow 2009-10