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School of English and Drama

Dr Zara Dinnen, BA (Leeds) MA (Leeds) PhD (Birkbeck)


Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature



I am originally from London. I did my BA in English and History of Art at University of Leeds, and went back to Leeds to do an MA in American Literature and Culture. I came back to London and did a PhD in English at Birkbeck University of London. I have taught at Birkbeck and Roehampton University, and was Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature at University of Birmingham from 2013, until I joined QMUL in 2017.

I am a founding executive committee member of the British Association of Contemporary Literary Studies

From 2009-2014 I co-convened the Contemporary Fiction Research Seminar at Institute of English Studies with Dr Tony Venezia at Birkbeck, University of London. The series hosted guest speakers and panels to talk across a range of fields, and convened skills workshops for PGRs and ECRs. See Researching the Contemporary for an archive of materials.

Follow me on Twitter here

Undergraduate Teaching

I have taught on:

  • ESH293: The Long Contemporary
  • ESH6058: Look Who’s Computing Now

Postgraduate Teaching

I have also taught:

  • ESH7010: The State of the Novel


Research Interests:

  • Digital culture
  • New media
  • Contemporary American literature
  • Popular culture
  • Visual culture

Recent and On-Going Research

I research representations of digital media in literary and popular culture. My first monograph explores what I term, ‘the digital banal’. The digital banal describes the way we encounter new media as already boring, and so are unable to engage with the novelty of our mediational everyday lives. In this project, I consider realist/reality narratives of contemporary life lived with digital technology, and work to recover the novel conditions of becoming-with technology latent in otherwise banal everyday occurrences.

My interest in literature and new media has also led to a series of Leverhulme/BA funded workshops, co-organised with Dr Sam McBean (QMUL) on “Mediating Contemporary Literature”, which took place in the academic year 2016/17.

My current research is thinking about the user-subject in digital culture. I am particularly looking at representations of hackers and users in popular culture, and the modes of relationality, autonomy, and political agency afforded, and attached to, these figures.



The Digital Banal: New Media and American Literature and Culture, New York: Columbia University Press, 2018.

Winner of the BALCS 2017 Monograph Prize



Eds. Zara Dinnen and Robyn Warhol, The Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Narrative Theories, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018.



with Sam McBean, ‘The Face as Technology‘, New Formations 93 (2018), 122-137

‘Understanding the Funny Military Music Video’. Journal of American Studies, 50.4 (November 2016): 899-921

‘Exaptation and the Digital Now’. Co-authored article with Rob Gallagher, Alex Myers, Daniel Rourke. Media-N Journal 10.1 (2014)

‘Breaking out that Perl Script: The imaging and imagining of code in The Social Network and Catfish’. European Journal of American Culture. 32.2 (2013)

‘Things that Matter: Representing Everyday Technological Things in Comics’. Studies in Comics. 3.2. Special Issue on Comics and Contemporary Cultural Theory. (2013)

‘In the mix: the potential convergence of literature and new media in Jonathan Lethem’s ‘The Ecstasy of Influence’’. Journal of Narrative Theory. 42.2 (2012)



‘Virtual Identity’ in Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory, eds. Julie Rak, John Frow (forthcoming).

‘Digital Technology’ in The Routledge Companion to Twenty-First Century Literary Fiction, eds. Daniel O’Gorman and Robert Eaglestone, forthcoming Routledge, 2019.

“Cinema and the Unnarratability of Computation” in The Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Narrative Theories, eds. Zara Dinnen and Robyn Warhol, Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming 2018.

“Becoming User in Popular Culture” in Affect and Social Media ed. Tony D. Sampson London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018


Interviews, short pieces etc. [all available online]

‘“This is all artificial”: An Interview with Jennifer Egan’, Post45, (May 2016)

ScarJo’s Face: A Mediation on the Digital’, In Media Res (2015)

‘Talking Contemporary Fiction: A conversation,’ with Bianca Leggett and Tony Venezia. C21: Journal of 21st Century Writings. 3.1 (2014)

‘Digital Metaphors: Editor’s Introduction’. Alluvium 2.6 (2013)

‘Early career researchers: ever thought about teaching in schools?’ Guardian Higher Education Network (12 April 2013).

‘Pictures of Self-Portraits’, In Media Res (2012)

‘Two Jonathans: Writing on comics in essays’. Invited post for Comics Forum (2012)

‘Androids in the Academy’. Alluvium. 1.5 (2012)

‘Interview with Jonathan Lethem’. Dandelion. 2. Podcast. (2011)


I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.

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