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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Dr Ben Holgate, MA (Research), MCom (Sydney), DPhil (Oxon)


Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

Room Number: Graduate Centre 607
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 10am to 11am


I joined the Department of Comparative Literature in September 2018 as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow and am in my third and final year of the fellowship. Previously, I was an Associate Lecturer in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York.

I am currently writing a book about narratives and the data economy. My research focuses on how the explosion of data this century has fundamentally changed the structure of the economy and how we live our lives. The project is interdisciplinary, covering literary studies, economics and finance, and computer science. A key part of my research involves applying machine learning to textual analysis. This draws on new techniques in data science.

I teach a module based on my research titled “Cybercapitalism and Literature” (COM 6207), which is running for its second consecutive year in 2020-21. The interdisciplinary module explores the intersection of technology and capitalism. It ranges across fiction and non-fiction texts, as well as economic writings.

In February 2020, I co-organised a ground-breaking one-day interdisciplinary event called the Cultural Finance Conference at Queen Mary. The conference, a collaboration with Jason Sturgess, a Professor in the School of Economics and Finance, was the first of its kind in the UK, featuring both literary critics and economists as speakers. A key aim was to explore how literary criticism and economics / finance and might ‘talk to’ one another as separate disciplines but with overlapping concerns. The theme of cultural finance is a new and emerging area of economics that explores how cultural norms interact with financial decision-making. The conference attracted people from both academia and the finance sector.

My first monograph, Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse, was published by Routledge in early 2019. Click here to read more about it. The book makes a dual intervention in both world literature and ecocriticism by examining magical realism as an international style of writing that has long-standing links with environmental literature. I argue that, in the era of climate change when humans are facing the prospect of species extinction, new ideas and new forms of expression are required to address what the novelist Amitav Gosh calls a “crisis of imagination.” The book also challenges conventional conceptions of magical realism, contending they are often influenced by a geographic bias in the construction of the orthodox global canon, and instead examines contemporary fiction from Asia (including China) and Australasia, two regions that have been largely neglected by scholarship of the narrative mode. I taught a module titled “Expanding Boundaries: Re-thinking Magical Realism” (COM 5211) in 2019-20.

I have a background in both media and finance. Initially, I worked as a newspaper journalist (including for The Australian and The Australian Financial Review), and as a business development executive for News Corp in Australia. Subsequently, I worked in investment banking as an equities research analyst for Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

I hold a Doctor of Philosophy in English from the University of Oxford, as well as a Master of Arts (Research) and a Master of Commerce (finance major) from the University of Sydney. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


Research Interests:

World literature, economics, digital humanities, software studies, data science, contemporary Chinese literature, contemporary Anglophone literature, magical realism, ecocriticism, postcolonial studies, critical theory.



Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse. London and New York: Routledge, 2019
Book Chapters
“The Fear of Solitude: How Marketing Makes Real Magic.” In The Global Histories of Books: Methodologies and Practices. Edited by Elleke Boehmer, Rouven Kunstmann, Priyasha Mukhopadhyay and Asha Rogers, 297-317. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.
“Greening a Narrative Mode: Antipodean Magical Realism and Ecocriticism in Richard Flanagan’s Fiction.” In Richard Flanagan: Critical Essays. Edited by Robert Dixon, 43-58. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2018.
“The Calcutta Chromosome in a Magical Realism Course.” In Approaches to Teaching the Works of Amitav Ghosh. Edited by Gaurav Desai and John Hawley, 160-65. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2019.
“Magical Realism in East Asia.” In Magical Realism and Literature. Edited by Christopher Warnes and Kim Anderson Sasser. Cambridge University Press (forthcoming).
Journal Articles
“Intersecting Imperialisms: The Rise and Fall of Empires in Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North.” Journal of World Literature 4.3 (2019): 437-457.
“Developing Magical Realism’s Irony in Gould’s Book of Fish.” JASAL (Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature) 14.5 (2014). Online.
“Unsettling Narratives: Re-evaluating Magical Realism as Postcolonial Discourse through Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria and The Swan Book.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 51.6 (2015): 634-647.