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School of English and Drama

Professor Patrick Flanery


Professor of Creative Writing



I was born in California and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. After finishing my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television Production at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, I worked as a freelance script reader for Sony Pictures Entertainment, and subsequently as a book scout for a production company and talent management agency.

In 2001, I moved to the U.K., where I completed my doctorate at the University of Oxford on the publishing and adaptation histories of Evelyn Waugh’s novels, and also began working on South African literature and film. From 2005 to 2009 I taught modern and contemporary literature and literary theory as an adjunct at the University of Sheffield, during which time I was also writing my first novel, Absolution (2012). I have since published two further novels, Fallen Land (2013) and I Am No One (2016).

Translations of my novels have appeared or are forthcoming in a dozen languages. Absolution won the Spear’s/Laurent Perrier Best First Book Award in 2012, and was shortlisted for a number of other prizes, including the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize and the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize. Other creative and critical work has been published in Zoetrope: All Story, Granta, Newsweek, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Spectator, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Daily Telegraph. I have appeared at literary festivals around the U.K., as well as in France, Italy, Norway, South Africa, and the U.S.A.

I have lived in London with my husband since 2010. Before coming to teach at Queen Mary, I was Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Reading from 2014 to 2017.

Undergraduate Teaching

I have taught on:

  • ESH4100: Creative Writing 1
  • ESH5101: Creative Writing: The Short Story


Research Interests:

  • The novel
  • Realism
  • Surveillance and paranoia
  • Transnationalism, migration, and exile
  • Queer theories, affects, and subjectivities

Recent and On-Going Research

My three published novels are united by concerns with selfhood, surveillance, memory, and migration. Absolution (2012) follows a South African expatriate who returns to Cape Town to write the biography of a celebrated novelist. Told in four voices, the book foregrounds the ethics of representation and the subjectivity of recounting traumatic histories. In a long review in the New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch called me ‘an exceptionally gifted and intelligent novelist.’ In 2015 and 2016, Absolution was on the IEB syllabus for South African secondary schools; in support of this, I went on two schools tours, speaking to 7,500+ students and teachers.

Fallen Land (2013) is in conversation with traditions of American writing about the uncanny, the gothic, and suburbia. For its exploration of racism and meditations on climate change, private prisons, and surveillance, Fallen Land was described by critics as a state-of-the-nation novel about contemporary America. In the Guardian, John Burnside described it as ‘a superb portrayal of how ordinary men can veer into madness’ and a novel that ‘takes up the challenge of what DeLillo calls “the American mystery”,’ exploring ‘the dark shadows cast by history and old lies.’

My third novel, I Am No One (2016), is narrated by a professor of modern German history who returns to New York after a decade at Oxford; convinced he is under government surveillance, he is forced to reassess his relationship with an exiled Egyptian doctoral student. Teddy Wayne called it ‘a novel of Pynchonesque paranoid ideas, wrapped in psychologically acute Jamesian prose, delivered by a gripping story worthy of Graham Greene.’ Hanya Yanagihara wrote that it announces me as ‘a writer with an uncanny sense of the anxieties and fears that define the modern condition’. Reviewing it in the Guardian, A.S. Byatt said ‘Flanery is a master of puzzling, alarming and even terrifying storytelling. . . .One of the pleasures of reading [him] is the tussle between ways of understanding the shapes of stories and language. . . . [H]e writes realist novels which show their awareness that realism is a self-conscious form like others. Reviewers have described his novels as thrillers, which is never quite right . . . there are parts of the story that stand out as thrilling, next to other parts that are meditative, and others that are psychologically baffling. Readers are constantly seeking to work out what sort of writing they are reading.’

I am currently finishing work on my fourth novel, Night for Day, which follows a group of characters affected by McCarthyism in 1950s Los Angeles.




  • I Am No One. New York: Tim Duggan Books/Crown/Penguin Random House, 2016; London: Atlantic Books, 2016. Translations published or forthcoming in China, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
  • Fallen Land. New York: Riverhead Books, 2013; London: Atlantic Books, 2013. Translations published or forthcoming in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Spain.
  • Absolution. New York: Riverhead Books, 2012; London: Atlantic Books, 2012; Toronto: Knopf, 2012. Translations published or forthcoming in Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, and Spain.

Short Fiction

  • ‘Bearings’, in Kate Gottgens: Paintings 2015-2017, Cape Town: SMAC, 2017.
  • ‘Heretics’, Zoetrope: All Story 2, Summer 2017: 12a-23b.
  • ‘Interior: Monkeyboy’, Granta 136: Legacies of Love, July 2016: 69-93.


Links at

  • Reflection, Understanding, and Empathy: A Conversation between Carol-Ann Davids and Patrick Flanery, Safundi, July 2017: 291-301.
  • Interview by Christopher Holmes, Contemporary Literature, September 2013: 427-58.
  • Interview by Jonathan Derbyshire, The New Statesman, 14 June 2013.
  • ‘How I Write’, interview by Noah Charney, The Daily Beast, 1 May 2013.
  • Interview by Malcolm Forbes, The Millions, 4 May 2012.

Essays & Journalism

Links at

  • ‘Punch and Injury’ – on Jordan Wolfson’s Colored sculpture at Tate Modern – The TLS, 13 June 2018.
  • ‘Not Gordimer,’ Hazlitt, July 2014.
  • ‘I am in a civil partnership, but it is no substitute for marriage,’ Guardian, 5 June 2013.
  • ‘Banished by Love’, Los Angeles Times, 26 March 2013.

Non-academic Reviews 

Links at

  • Imagine Me Goneby Adam Haslett, Spectator. June 2016.
  • Moonstoneby Sjón, TLS. June 2016.
  • Trenchermanby Eben Venter, Guardian. March 2016.
  • Slade Houseby David Mitchell, Spectator. October 2015.
  • Jimfishby Christopher Hope, Spectator. May 2015.
  • ‘A Literary Critic Explores if Emigrants Ever Truly Belong’. The Nearest Thing to Lifeby James Wood, Newsweek. April 2015.
  • Preparation for the Next Lifeby Atticus Lish, Guardian. April 2015.
  • Bones by Paul Theroux, Guardian. 9 October 2014.
  • Californiaby Edan Lepucki, TLS. 9 October 2014.
  • How to be bothby Ali Smith, Telegraph. 30 August 2014.
  • Outlawsby Javier Cercas, Guardian. 21 June 2014.
  • ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’. The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, Telegraph, 31 May 2014.
  • ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. Double Negative by Ivan Vladislavić, Guardian, 9 November 2013.
  • The Childhood of Jesusby J.M. Coetzee, Washington Post, September 2013.
  • Philidaby André Brink. Telegraph, 14 August 2012.
  • ‘Distil their Souls.’ The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoetby David Mitchell. TLS, 14 May 2010.
  • ‘Two Cities.’ The One That Got Awayby Zoë Wicomb. TLS, 9 October 2009.
  • ‘J.M. Coetzee’s autre-biography: One of the Tribe?’ Summertimeby J.M. Coetzee. TLS, 11 September 2009.
  • ‘A theory of hands.’ The Pagesby Murray Bail. TLS, 22 August 2008.
  • ‘Money from Buzz.’ The Story of a Marriageby Andrew Sean Greer. TLS, 27 June 2008.
  • ‘The Dean family.’ A Fraction of the Wholeby Steve Toltz. TLS, 30 May 2008.
  • ‘The new South African novel.’ Agaatby Marlene van Niekerk. TLS, 7 December 2007.
  • ‘Voiceless views.’ Foreigners: Three English Livesby Caryl Phillips. TLS, 21 September 2007.
  • ‘How to get home.’ The Blue Doorby André Brink. TLS, 24 August 2007.
  • ‘Star-crossed Cowboys.’ Woundedby Percival Everett. TLS, 2 March 2007.
  • ‘Headlong into Art.’ The Ghost of Memoryby Wilson Harris. TLS, 14 December 2006.

Scholarly Contributions to Books

  • ‘Limber: The Flexibilities of Post-Nobel Coetzee.’ In Print, Text, & Book Cultures in South Africa. Ed. Andrew van der Vlies. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2012. pp. 208-24.
  • ‘The BBC Brideshead, 1956.’ In A Handful of Mischief. Ed. Donat Gallagher, Ann Pasternak Slater, John Wilson. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2011. pp. 220-31.
  • ‘Brideshead Re-Positioned: Re-Ma(r)king Text and Tone in Filmed Adaptation.’ In Waugh Without End: New Trends in Evelyn Waugh Studies. Ed. Carlos José Villar Flor and Robert Murray Davis. Bern: Peter Lang, 2005. pp. 193-210.

Scholarly Articles

  • In My Country’s Filmic Betrayals: Reification and the Ethics of Adapting Country of My Skull.’ Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies, July 2010: 233-60.
  • ‘Readership, Authority, and Identity: Some Competing Texts of A Handful of Dust.’ Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, September 2009: 337-56.
  • ‘Annexing the Global, Globalizing the Local.’ Scrutiny2, 2008: 3-17. (With Andrew van der Vlies.)
  • ‘Re-Marking Coetzee and Costello: The[Textual] Lives of Animals.’ English Studies in Africa, 2004: 61-84. (Special Issue: Histories of the Book in Southern Africa.)

Guest Editorship of Scholarly Journal

  • South African Cultural Texts and the Global Mediascape. Special issue of Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa, 2008. (With Andrew van der Vlies.)


I would be happy to hear from potential doctoral students whose interests and proposals coincide with any of my research areas.

I supervised two students: one is writing a magic realist novel about transnational Peruvian-British experience; the other is working on a creative non-fiction project combining memoir and queer theory.

Public Engagement

Recent Literary Festival Appearances & Public Readings


2017    LSE Space for Thought Festival. Revolution in the Mind: Reassessing the psychology of rebellion and obedience. Panel with Alex Haslam, Steve Reicher, and Sandra Jovchelovitch.

2016    La Fiera della Parole, Padua, Italy. Panel with Claudia Durastanti.

2016    Festival America, Vincennes, France. Panels with Dan Chaon, Sam Lipsyte, John D’Agata, Christopher Bollen, Forrest Gander, Héctor Tobar, and Vu Tran.

2016    Edinburgh International Book Festival. Panel with Francesca Kay.

2016    Franschhoek Literary Festival, South Africa. Panels with Chinelo Okparanta, Ekow Duker, & others.

2015    Kapittel 15: The Stavanger International Festival for Literature & Freedom of Speech, Norway. Events with Ben Marcus, Julie Otsuka, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, and others.

2015    Open Book Festival, Cape Town. Events with Petinah Gappah and others.

Public Readings

2016    Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca, New York. July.

2016    Tattered Cover, Denver, Colorado. July.

2016    BookCourt, Brooklyn, New York. In conversation with Charlotte Rogan. July.

2016    Love Books, Johannesburg, South Africa. In conversation with CA Davids. May.

2016    Kalk Bay Books, Cape Town, South Africa. In conversation with Mark Gevisser. May.

2015    Bury St Edmunds Library. As part of Writers Centre Norwich’s Brave New Reads campaign. September.

2015    Diss Library. As part of Writers Centre Norwich’s Brave New Reads campaign. June

2015    Litteraturhuset, Bergen, Norway. April.

2015    Bergen Library, Norway. April.

Invited Lectures

  • Invited Keynote. ‘Of Lawrence’s Other Spaces’. Opening Lecture, 14thInternational D.H. Lawrence Conference: London Calling, Lawrence and the Metropolis. 3 July 2017.
  • Invited Lecture Tour. In 2015 and 2016, the Independent Exam Board in South Africa included Absolutionas an option choice for high school students. This is the premiere examination board for South African private schools and is used by more than 300 institutions in the country. In both years, I undertook a lecture tour organized by educational publisher The English Experience. Over the two years, this entailed thirty-three talks and Q&A sessions in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, and Pietermaritzburg, with a total audience of more than 7500 students and teachers.