Allan Johnson

Dr Allan Kilner-Johnson

Associate Professor in English Literature & Associate Dean (Doctoral College), Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
BA (Baldwin-Wallace), MA (Leeds), PhD (Leeds)
+44 (0)1483 683122
11 AD 02


Areas of specialism

Literary modernism; Modernism and mass culture; Sexuality and desire; Literary architecture; Western esotericism; Psychoanalysis

My qualifications

PhD, English Literature
University of Leeds
MA, Twentieth-Century Literature
University of Leeds
BA, English with Art History
Baldwin-Wallace College

Previous roles

2013 - 2016
Assistant Professor of English Literature
City University of Hong Kong
2012 - 2012
Associate Lecturer
Birkbeck, University of London

Affiliations and memberships

Royal Society of Arts
Associate Fellow
Higher Education Academy


Research interests


Postgraduate research supervision



Allan Kilner-Johnson (2020)Bernard Shaw's Gnostic Genius, In: SHAW: The Journal of Bernard Shaw Studies Penn State University Press

During the penultimate year of the First World War—against the backdrop of the Battle of Passchendaele, the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, and Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war on Germany—sociologist Max Weber famously observed that “the fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world’.” Weber’s sense that modernity was delineated by a great cultural shift toward rationalism and secularisation offered a compelling explanation for the march of capitalism, rapidisation, and subjective detachment that characterised many of the most pressing cultural forces of the first two decades of the twentieth century. Weber’s disenchantment thesis would have a considerable influence on subsequent socio-historical assessments of the modernist project, however it has more recently been shown to provide an incomplete picture of the intellectual recourses of a period of significant transformation and change. James A.K. Smith argues that “the prophetic prognostications of Weber and his ilk proved to be only the predictions of false prophets,” and Peter Berger’s sustained questioning of Weber’s thesis leads, by his final book The Many Altars of Modernity (2014), to the opinion that Weber misread heterogeneity of spiritual practice as the rejection of faith:"Pluralism, the co-existence of different worldviews and value systems in the same society is the major change brought about by modernity for the place of religion both in the minds of individuals and in the institutional order." In Berger’s late work, modernity is defined not by the emergence of disenchantment but by the “huge transformation in the human condition from fate to choice,” a transition in no way antithetical to the pre-eminence of faith and religious fervour in cultural expression. The syncretistic energy of the late-nineteenth-century was not simply brushed aside to make way for the supposedly more rational modern world, but, rather, continued to evolve and expand into a sustained movement from orthodoxy to heterodoxy in spiritual belief, a pivotal cultural transition which is captured in both the dramatic writing and religious speeches of Bernard Shaw.

Allan Johnson (2017)The Pleasure of “Conspicuous Leisure" in Sister Carrie and The House Mirth, In: English Studies Taylor & Francis

The growth of leisure time for the middle- and working-classes during the Second Industrial Revolution gave rise to a newly modern leisure industry. This article argues that Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth center on this particular social and economical development as a means by which to establish that economic identity must be defined antithetically to the inescapable swell of mass, modern life. These novels illustrate a crucial economic transition in American history through their evaluation of the potential roles that Carrie Meeber and Lily Bart can play as objects of leisure, employees of the leisure industry, or bearers of what the economist Thorstein Veblen calls ‘conspicuous leisure.’ Dreiser and Wharton offer arch critiques of this new leisure class—not for populist or egalitarian purposes, but as a response to the toxic effects of a newly commoditized culture which supported and defined the leisured elite.

Allan Kilner-Johnson (2019)‘[God] is a Flaming Hebrew Letter’: Esoteric Camp in Angels in America, In: Literature and Theology Oxford University Press (OUP)

This article turns attention to the mystical theology of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America to demonstrate how Kushner aligns the long theological history of spiritual revelation and textual exegesis with the performative associations of camp, the stylised heightening of otherness, citation, and irony central to contemporary gay culture. Kushner’s play underscores the role of the divinely-inspired interloper in the development of both Western religion and the esoteric currents which run beneath, defining mystical experience as a form of camp which has historically ascribed questionable alterity to the receiver. As this article maintains, this suggestive correlation between high camp and esoteric faith works to resist a positivism firmly rooted in the scientific materialism of modernity and which had previously served as the most consistent artistic and academic response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

This book is about the modernist narrative voice and its correlation to medical, mythological, and psychoanalytic images of emasculation between 1919 and 1945. It shows how special-effects of rhetoric and form inspired by outré modernist developments in psychoanalysis, occultism, and negative philosophy reshaped both narrative structure and the literary depiction of modern masculine identity. In acknowledging early twentieth-century Anglo-American literature’s self-conscious and self-reflexive understanding of the effect of textual production, this engaging new study depicts a history of writers and readers understanding the role of textual absence in the development and chronicling of masculine anxiety and optimism.