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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Barry Sheils

Associate Professor in the Department of English Studies
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42569
Room number: Room A69, Elvet Riverside 1
Associate Director in the Centre for Culture and Ecology

Contact Dr Barry Sheils (email at


I arrived in Durham in 2016. Before that I was an Irish Research Council Fellow at University College Dublin, having previously held an Early Career Fellowship with the Institute of Advance Study at Warwick University. I also lectured at Swansea University. I received my Doctorate from Warwick, and my BA from Trinity College, Dublin.

My research

A major focus in my research to date has been on transnational English Studies, especially the reassessment of modernism as a cultural phenomenon connected to processes of globalisation. My book W.B. Yeats and World Literature: the Subject of Poetry (2015) considered Yeats’s role in the development of an international literary marketplace in the early twentieth century, and his key collaborations with figures including Rabindranath Tagore, Shri Purohit Swãmi and Ezra Pound. You can read more detailed reviews of this work here and here.

I have also recently co-edited and introduced two collections of essays: Narcissism, Melancholia and the Subject of Community (2017) and Shame and Modern Writing (2018). These volumes have set the ground for my current projects (of which there are two), both concerned
with the psycho-political dimensions of modern life and the pathologisation of the literary work.

  1. My next monograph ‘Meteorological modernism: weather forecasting and literary form’ charts developments in weather science away from the standard observational practices of the C19th towards cybernetic formalisation in the 1940s. I consider how we might decode, through a reading of literary texts, the cultural significance of this trajectory, thinking especially of how C20th weather forecasting begins to use abstraction and prediction to communicate moods and manage the movement of populations. Much of my work on this project is supported by the newly established Centre for Cultural Ecologies.
  2. I am also working speculatively and collaboratively on ‘Aspects of style after modernism’. Here, I am particularly interested in the on-going contest between confessional writing, which foregrounds the ‘honest’ and pathological deformations of the literary, and the particular claims of literary accomplishment. Play, wit, simile, the sentence, the role of the pronoun, translational style, ‘stylessness’, as well as the relation between the fine style and stylistics are some of the topics under consideration.

I would welcome enquiries from potential research students in any of my areas of interest.



Post-war Fiction and Poetry [lecture module] (ENGL 3591)

W.B. Yeats [special topic] (ENGL 3201)

Shame and Modern Writing [MA level] (ENGL 44530).

Research Interests

  • Critical and Cultural theory
  • Irish modernism and contemporary Irish fiction
  • Modernist ecologies
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Shame and Affect
  • Transnational poetics and theories of 'world' literature
  • W.B. Yeats

Selected Publications

Authored book

Edited book

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Book review

Other (Digital/Visual Media)

Other (Print)


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Indicators of Esteem

  • Keynote Address: English n'existe pas: towards a modernist genealogy of world literature', Swedish National Forum for English Studies Conference, April 2017