Dr Dennis Duncan

  • modernism
  • material texts
  • history of the book
  • literary translation
  • Oulipo/’Pataphysics

On completing my PhD in 2011, I took up a position as a Lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London where I ran their MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature, before moving to Oxford in 2014 as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow.

I'm particularly interested in structures in writing, whether that is in the paratexts - especially indexes - that frame the main text, or in the type of constrained writing practised by the Oulipo (novels without the letter e, for example). I am currently finishing a monograph on the Oulipo's early years, while other recent books include an edition of the Surrealist magazine, Le Grand Jeu (Atlas, 2015), and a collection of essays on the novelist, Tom McCarthy (Gylphi, 2016). Another collection, Book Parts, on the history of paratexts (indexes, errata lists, page numbers, etc.) co-edited with Adam Smyth, is due out with Oxford University Press next year. 

My current research project is a history of the book index, from medieval times to the digital age. I've published some of this work in the TLS and The Indexer, and also keep a blog on some of the oddities which come up. Other recent academic articles have looked at Italo Calvino and writing machines, Mallarmé and jugs, and James Joyce’s influence on mid-century French pornography. I have published a number of translations – of Alfred Jarry and Boris Vian, among others – for the London Institute of ’Pataphysics, and my translation of Michel Foucault's wild essay on J.-P. Brisset, 'Seven Remarks on the Seventh Angel', will appear in a future number of PMLA.

I regularly review books on translation and book history for the TLS (for example, here and here), and often write for their blog (e.g. here). I also write occasional pieces for the LRB blog, and pop up from time to time on Radio 3 to talk about book history or French literature. At Oxford, I edit the OCCT Review, the journal of Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation, and present the Paratexts Podcast, a series of History of the Book podcasts on the Bodleian's website.


19th and 20th century literature; contemporary literature; translation studies; history of the book.



  • 'Oulipo', 'Pataphysics', and 'Acéphale'

  • Seven Remarks on the Seventh Angel

  • The Protean Ptyx: Nonsense, Non-Translation and Word Magic in Mallarmé’s ‘Sonnet en yx’

  • Tom McCarthy: Critical Essays

  • Hoggs that Sh-te Soap, p. 66

  • More
List of site pages