Professor Bran Nicol

Research Interests

Post-war British and American Fiction
Psychoanalytic Theory
Film Studies
Crime fiction and film

Departmental Duties

Head of School of English and Languages

Other responsibilities

Surrey Academic Lead for TECHNE (AHRC Doctoral Training Programme

Contact Me

Phone: 01483 68 2822

Find me on campus
Room: 01 LC 03

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Journal articles

  • Nicol BJ. (2015) 'Those Who Follow: Homosocial Choreography in Highsmith’s Queer Gothic'. Clues: a journal of detection, 33 (2), pp. 97-108.
  • Nicol BJ. (2013) 'Reading and Not Reading 'The Man of the Crowd': Poe, the City, and the Gothic Text'. Summer 2012 Edition. Philological Quarterly: devoted to scholarly investigation of the classical and modern languages and literatures, United States of America: 91 (3)


    Poe’s ‘The Man of the Crowd’, as Patricia Merivale has observed, be justifiably be considered a counterpart to ‘The Purloined Letter’ in its significance in cultural theory. It has been particularly valued as a kind of sociological document which reveals and critiques aspects of the scopic and material conditions of the modern city.Yet despite an almost universal acknowledgement that the tale is about ‘reading’, most critics have worked with a rather impoverished model of reading. Following the example of Tom Gunning, who has argued that the tale provides premonitions of a range of spectator positions in cinema, this essay argues that the story dramatizes typical responses to the literary text which are more complex than the flan flanerie. To place the text in a more explicitly literary context opens it up to an analysis which takes account of how complex its structure is, and the fact that the narrator has typically-Poe-esque ‘delusional’ credentials, and acknowledge how this might compromise or complicate some of the arguments about urban reading. As such it demands to be considered in terms of the capacity of Poe’s fiction to seduce readers into what Joseph Kronick has called, ‘identifying the intepretation with the text’, particularly in relation to the particular self-reflexive effect Garrett Stewart has termed the ‘gothic of reading’.

  • Nicol BJ. (2011) 'Detective Fiction and 'the Original Crime': Baudrillard, Calle, Poe'. November 2011 Edition. Duke University Press Cultural Politics, USA: 7 (3), pp. 445-464.
  • Nicol BJ. (2006) 'Iris Murdoch and the Aesthetics of Masochism'. Winter 2006 Edition. Indiana University Press Journal of Modern Literature, 29 (2), pp. 148-165.
  • Nicol BJ. (2001) 'Philosophy’s Dangerous Pupil: Murdoch and Derrida'. Fall 2001 Edition. Johns Hopkins University Press MFS Modern Fiction Studies, USA: 47 (3), pp. 580-601.
  • Nicol BJ. (2001) 'As If: Traversing the Fantasy in Zizek'. Summer 2001 Edition. Edinburgh University Press Paragraph: a journal of modern critical theory, 24 (2), pp. 140-155.
  • Nicol BJ. (2000) 'Normality and Other Kinds of Madness: Žižek and the Traumatic Core of the Subject'. Spring 2000 Edition. Taylor and Francis Psychoanalytic Studies, UK: 2 (1), pp. 7-20.
  • Nicol BJ. (1999) 'Reading Paranoia: Paranoia, Epistemophilia, and the Postmodern Crisis of Interpretation'. 1999 Edition. Literature and Psychology: A quarterly journal of literary criticism as informed by depth psychology, 45 (1&2)
  • Nicol BJ. (1996) 'Anticipating Retrospection: The First-Person Retrospective Novel and Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea'. Spring 1996 Edition. Journal of Narrative Theory, USA: 26 (2), pp. 187-208.


  • Nicol BJ. (2013) The Private Eye: Detectives in the Movies. First Edition. London : Reaktion Books


    Since the early days of cinema, the private eye has been one of its most memorable characters, often viewed as a romantic hero, a ‘lone wolf’ who confronts and tries to make sense of a violent and chaotic modern world. In The Private Eye Bran Nicol challenges this stereotype, offering a fresh take on iconic figures such as Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Jake Gittes, and a cogent reappraisal of film noir. Analysing a wide range of films, including classics such as The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Chinatown, and The Long Goodbye, Nicol traces the history of the private eye movie from the influential film noirs of the 1940s, through innovative 1970s neo-noir cinema, to the presence of the private eye in movie mythology today. He reveals that although these films are exciting thrillers, they are nevertheless preoccupied by ‘domestic’ issues: work, home and love. Rather than fearless investigation, Nicol argues, the private eye’s job is really about unveiling the private lives and private spaces of others, an achievement which comes at the expense of his own private life. Combining a lucid introduction to an under-explored tradition in movie history with a novel approach to the detective in film, this book casts new light on the private worlds of the private eye.

  • Nicol B, McNulty E, Pulham P. (2011) Crime Culture: Figuring Criminality in Fiction and Film. New York : Continuum International Publishing Group


    By broadening the focus beyond classic English detective fiction, the American ‘hard-boiled’ crime novel and the gangster movie, Crime Cultures breathes new life into staple themes of crime fiction and cinema. Leading international scholars from the fields of literary and cultural studies analyze a range of literature and film, from neglected examples of film noir and ‘true crime’, crime fiction by female African American writers, to reality TV, recent films such as Elephant, Collateral and The Departed, and contemporary fiction by J. G. Ballard, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Margaret Atwood. They offer groundbreaking interpretations of new elements such as the mythology of the hitman, technology and the image, and the cultural impact of ‘senseless’ murders and reveal why crime is a powerful way of making sense of the broader concerns shaping modern culture and society.

  • Nicol B. (2009) The Cambridge Introduction to Postmodern Fiction. Cambridge University Press


    Postmodern fiction presents a challenge to the reader: instead of enjoying it passively, the reader has to work to understand its meanings, to think about what fiction is, and to question their own responses. Yet this very challenge makes postmodern writing so much fun to read and rewarding to study. Unlike most introductions to postmodernism and fiction, this book places the emphasis on literature rather than theory. It introduces the most prominent British and American novelists associated with postmodernism, from the 'pioneers', Beckett, Borges and Burroughs, to important post-war writers such as Pynchon, Carter, Atwood, Morrison, Gibson, Auster, DeLillo, and Ellis. Designed for students and clearly written, this Introduction explains the preoccupations, styles and techniques that unite postmodern authors. Their work is characterized by a self-reflexive acknowledgement of its status as fiction, and by the various ways in which it challenges readers to question common-sense and commonplace assumptions about literature.

  • Nicol B. (2009) Quando la passione diventa ossessione. Stalking. Torino, Italy : Ananke
  • Nicol B. (2006) Stalking. Reaktion Books
  • Nicol B. (2004) Iris Murdoch: The Retrospective Fiction (2nd Edition). 2nd, expanded Edition. Palgrave Macmillan
  • Nicol B, Council B. (2004) D.M. Thomas (Writers and their Work). Northcote House Publishers Ltd
  • Nicol B. (2002) Postmodernism and the Contemporary Novel: A Reader. Edinburgh Univ Pr
  • Nicol BJ. (1999) Iris Murdoch: The Retrospective Fiction. First Edition. Macmillan

Book chapters

  • Nicol BJ. (2015) 'X-Ray Detectives: Ishmael Reed, Clarence Major and Black Postmodern Detective Fiction'. in Platt L (ed.) Postmodern Literature and Race New York : Cambridge University Press Article number 4 , pp. 65-81.
  • Nicol BJ. (2015) 'The Hard-Boiled Detective: Dashiell Hammett'. in (ed.) The Bloomsbury Introduction to Popular Fiction London : Bloomsbury Academic Article number 14 , pp. 241-253.
  • Nicol BJ. (2013) 'Sherlock Holmes Version 2.0: Adapting Doyle in the Twenty-First Century'. in Vanacker S, Wynne C (eds.) The Cultural Afterlives of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan ... London : Palgrave Macmillan , pp. 124-139.
  • Nicol BJ. (2012) 'The Urban Environment'. in (ed.) Edgar Allan Poe in Context New York : Cambridge University Press Article number 8 , pp. 75-84.
  • Nicol B. (2012) 'In the Private Eye: Private Space in the Noir Detective Movie'. in Miller V, Oakley H (eds.) Cross-Cultural Connections in Crime Fictions London : Palgrave McMillan , pp. 121-140.
  • Nicol BJ. (2011) 'Police Thy Neighbour: Crime Culture and the Rear Window Paradigm'. in Nicol BJ, Pulham P, McNulty E (eds.) Crime Culture: Figuring Criminality in Fiction and Film London & New York : Continuum Books Article number 11 , pp. 192-209.
  • Nicol BJ, Pulham P, McNulty E. (2011) 'Introduction: Crime Culture and Modernity'. in Nicol BJ, Pulham P, McNulty E (eds.) Crime Culture: Figuring Criminality in Fiction and Film London & New York : Continuum Books Article number Introduction , pp. 1-9.
  • Nicol BJ. (2010) 'Murdoch’s Mannered Realism: Metafiction, Morality and the Post-War Novel'. in Rowe A, Horner A (eds.) Iris Murdoch and Morality London : Palgrave Macmillan , pp. 17-30.
  • Nicol B. (2010) 'Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995)'. in Rzepka CJ, Fang KY (eds.) A Companion to Crime Fiction Wiley-Blackwell , pp. 503-509.
  • Nicol BJ. (2010) 'Reading Spark in the Age of Suspicion'. in Herman D (ed.) Muriel Spark: Twenty-First Century Perspectives Baltimore, MA: USA : Johns Hopkins University Press/Modern Fiction Studies Article number 5 , pp. 112-128.
  • Nicol B. (2007) 'Postmodernism'. in Bradshaw D, Dettmar KJH (eds.) A Companion to Modernist Literature and Culture Wiley Article number 62 , pp. 565-570.
  • Nicol BJ. (2007) 'The Curse of The Bell: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Narrative'. in Rowe A (ed.) Iris Murdoch: A Reassessment Palgrave Macmillan Article number 8 , pp. 100-112.
  • Nicol BJ. (2006) 'The Memoir as Self-Destruction: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius'. in Gill J (ed.) Modern Confessional Writing Abingdon and New York : Routledge Article number 6 , pp. 100-114.
  • Nicol BJ. (2006) 'Iris Murdoch'. in Kastan DS (ed.) The Oxford encyclopedia of British literature
  • Nicol BJ. (2004) 'The Flâneur and the Stalker'. in (ed.) Leisure, Media and Visual Culture Brighton : Leisure Studies Association/University of Brighton LSA Publication 83 Article number 4 , pp. 61-72.

Theses and dissertations

  • Ashman N. (2017) James Ellroy : voyeurism, viewing and visual culture..
    [ Status: Approved ]


    James Ellroy is an eccentric and divisive popular novelist. Since the publication of his first novel Brown’s Requiem in 1981, Ellroy’s outré ‘Demon Dog’ persona and his highly stylised, often pornographically voyeuristic and violent crime novels have continued to polarise both public and academic opinion. This study considers Ellroy’s status as an historical novelist, critically evaluating the significance and function of voyeurism in his two collections of epic noir fiction The L.A. Quartet and The Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy. Using a combination of psychoanalysis, postmodern and cultural theory, it argues that Ellroy’s fiction traces the development of the voyeur from a deviant and perverse ‘peeping tom’ into a recognisable, contemporary ‘social type’, a paranoid and obsessive viewer who is a product of the decentred and hallucinatory, ‘cinematic’ world that he inhabits. In particular, it identifies a recurring pattern of ‘ocularcentric crisis’ in Ellroy’s texts, as characters become continually unable to understand or interpret through vision. Alongside a thematic analysis of obsessive watching, this project also suggests that Ellroy’s works - particularly his later novels - are themselves voyeuristic, implicating the reader in these broader narrative patterns of both visual and epistemophilic obsession. While principally a study on Ellroy’s work, this thesis also attempts to situate his texts within the broader contexts of both the contemporary historical novel and our pervasive ‘culture of voyeurism’. This thesis will therefore be of interest not only to Ellroy critics and readers, but also to scholars of both contemporary fiction and contemporary cultural studies.

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