Bran Nicol

Professor Bran Nicol

Head of the School of Literature and Languages, Professor of English Literature
+44 (0)1483 682822
01 LC 03
Personal Assistant: Mrs Milda Balse
+44 (0) 1483 683588


Areas of specialism

Twentieth-Century Fiction; Modernism; Postmodernism; Psychoanalytic theory; Crime culture; Detective fiction; Contemporary fiction

University roles and responsibilities

  • Head of the School of Literature and Languages

My qualifications

PhD English Literature
Lancaster University
MA in English and Contemporary European Studies
University of Dundee

Previous roles

2001 - 2012
Reader in Modern and Contemporary Literature
Senior Lecturer in English Literature
University of Portsmouth
1996 - 2001
Lecturer in English
University of Chichester


Research interests

Research projects

My publications


Nicol BJ (2013) The Private Eye: Detectives in the Movies, 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 Bran (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 (11) 11 pp. 192-209 Continuum Books
Nicol BJ (2001) Philosophy?s Dangerous Pupil: Murdoch and Derrida, MFS Modern Fiction Studies 47 (3) pp. 580-601 Johns Hopkins University Press
Nicol Bran (2010) Reading Spark in the Age of Suspicion, In: Herman D (eds.), Muriel Spark: Twenty-First Century Perspectives (5) 5 pp. 112-128 Johns Hopkins University Press/Modern Fiction Studies
Nicol Bran (2012) In the Private Eye: Private Space in the Noir Detective Movie, In: Miller V, Oakley H (eds.), Cross-Cultural Connections in Crime Fictions pp. 121-140 Palgrave McMillan
Nicol Bran (2011) Detective Fiction and 'the Original Crime': Baudrillard, Calle, Poe, Cultural Politics 7 (3) pp. 445-464 Duke University Press
Nicol Bran (2010) Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995), In: Rzepka CJ, Fang KY (eds.), A Companion to Crime Fiction pp. 503-509 Wiley-Blackwell
Nicol Bran (2010) Murdoch's Mannered Realism: Metafiction, Morality and the Post-War Novel, In: Rowe A, Horner A (eds.), Iris Murdoch and Morality pp. 17-30 Palgrave Macmillan
This volume, featuring contributions from a number of leading scholars, explores the ways in which the moral positions Iris Murdoch adopts in her philosophy and theology can be aligned with her fiction, demonstrating how Murdoch's work can ...
Nicol Bran (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 ... pp. 124-139 Palgrave Macmillan
Nicol BJ (2001) As If: Traversing the Fantasy in Zizek, Paragraph: a journal of modern critical theory 24 (2) pp. 140-155 Edinburgh University Press
Nicol B, McNulty E, Pulham P (2011) Crime Culture: Figuring Criminality in Fiction and Film, 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 Bran (2015) Those Who Follow: Homosocial Choreography in Highsmith?s Queer Gothic, Clues: a journal of detection 33 (2) pp. 97-108
Nicol BJ (2015) The Hard-Boiled Detective: Dashiell Hammett, In: The Bloomsbury Introduction to Popular Fiction 14 pp. 241-253 Bloomsbury Academic
An introduction to Hammett which considers his credentials as a 'popular' and 'literary' author.
Nicol BJ (1996) Anticipating Retrospection: The First-Person Retrospective Novel and Iris Murdoch?s The Sea, The Sea, Journal of Narrative Theory 26 (2) pp. 187-208
Nicol Bran (2006) Iris Murdoch, In: Kastan DS (eds.), The Oxford encyclopedia of British literature
Nicol BJ (2006) Iris Murdoch and the Aesthetics of Masochism, Journal of Modern Literature 29 (2) pp. 148-165 Indiana University Press
Nicol Bran (2004) The Flâneur and the Stalker, In: Leisure, Media and Visual Culture LSA Pu (4) 4 pp. 61-72 Leisure Studies Association/University of Brighton
Nicol B (2004) Iris Murdoch: The Retrospective Fiction (2nd Edition), Palgrave Macmillan
This new edition includes detailed readings of novels not discussed in the original (The Bell, The Sacred and Profane Love Machine, and The Philosopher's Pupil) and includes a new preface, an updated bibliography and three new chapters ...
Nicol Bran (2015) X-Ray Detectives: Ishmael Reed, Clarence Major and Black Postmodern Detective Fiction, In: Platt L (eds.), Postmodern Literature and Race (4) 4 pp. 65-81 Cambridge University Press
Nicol BJ (2000) Normality and Other Kinds of Madness: }i~ek and the Traumatic Core of the Subject, Psychoanalytic Studies 2 (1) pp. 7-20 Taylor and Francis
Nicol Bran, Council B (2004) D.M. Thomas (Writers and their Work), Northcote House Publishers Ltd
D. M. Thomas is one of the most controversial writers of our time - considered by some a major voice in contemporary fiction, by others a dubious literary 'impostor' who repeatedly appropriates female sexuality, the holocaust, and the work ...
Nicol Bran (2006) The Memoir as Self-Destruction: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, In: Gill J (eds.), Modern Confessional Writing (6) 6 pp. 100-114 Routledge
Contributors discuss a range of poetry, prose and drama, including the work of John Berryman, Anne Sexton, Ted Hughes and Helen Fielding.
Nicol Bran (2006) Stalking, Reaktion Books
Bran Nicol traces here the history of stalking and chronicles how acts of extreme obsession have created a public fixation of their own.
Nicol BJ (1999) Reading Paranoia: Paranoia, Epistemophilia, and the Postmodern Crisis of Interpretation, Literature and Psychology: A quarterly journal of literary criticism as informed by depth psychology 45 (1&2)
Nicol Bran (2007) Postmodernism, In: Bradshaw D, Dettmar KJH (eds.), A Companion to Modernist Literature and Culture (62) 62 pp. 565-570 Wiley
Translation into Italian of Stalking (Reaktion Books, 2006)
Nicol Bran, 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 (Introd) Introduction pp. 1-9 Continuum Books
Nicol Bran (2007) The Curse of The Bell: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Narrative, In: Rowe A (eds.), Iris Murdoch: A Reassessment (8) 8 pp. 100-112 Palgrave Macmillan
The book not only questions established critical and philosophical positions, but also Murdoch's own pronouncements about her work. It suggests fresh influences and interpretations, and celebrates Murdoch's interdisciplinary modernity.
Nicol BJ (2012) The Urban Environment, In: Edgar Allan Poe in Context 8 pp. 75-84 Cambridge University Press
Nicol BJ (2013) Reading and Not Reading 'The Man of the Crowd': Poe, the City, and the Gothic Text, Philological Quarterly: devoted to scholarly investigation of the classical and modern languages and literatures 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 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 Bran (2002) Postmodernism and the Contemporary Novel: A Reader, Edinburgh Univ Pr
Postmodernism and the Contemporary Novel: A Readeris the first book to collect the most important contributions to the theory of the postmodern novel over the last forty years and to guide readers through the complex questions and wide ...
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.
Nicol Bran (2018) Typical Eggers: transnationalism and America in Dave Eggers?s ?globally-minded? fiction, Textual Practice 33 (2) pp. 300-317 Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Dave Eggers?s What is the What and Zeitoun are transnational works in that their narratives detail a passage between nations and concentrate on the experiences of individuals of ?hyphenated identity?. The sequence of novels Eggers has published in the second decade of the twenty-first century mark a distinctive ?American turn? in his work which offers an alternative but complementary transnational perspective. Hologram for the King (2012), The Circle (2013), Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? (2014) and Heroes of the Frontier (2016) focus on ?unhyphenated? American protagonists, and examine the United States both as a specific place and as itself typical of a nation in the globalised twenty-first century world. In their post-postmodern ethical approach to fiction and their assumption that fiction?s duty is to ?make reality credible?, as Philip Roth once put it, these novels are themselves typical of the values and practices of a specifically US historical category, Mark McGurl?s Program Era, but also of categories of transnational fiction critics have recently described as ?global? or ?planetary?. Eggers?s US quartet critiques globalisation, but is ultimately more interested in asserting the value of connections between human beings in a globalised world.