Dr Donna McCormack

Senior Lecturer in English Literature
+44 (0)1483 686173
10 AD 02

Academic and research departments

School of Literature and Languages.


University roles and responsibilities

  • SLL Representative on the LGBTQI+ Committee (2015–2018)
  • Dissertations Coordinator (2015–2019)
  • International Officer (2017–2018)

    My qualifications

    PhD English Literature
    School of English, University of Leeds
    MA Sexual Dissidence and Cultural Change
    School of English, University of Sussex
    BA (Hons) French Language and Literature
    Department of French, University of Leeds


    Research interests

    Research projects

    I am the coordinator of the Nordic Network Gender, Body, Health.

    I am a founding member of the Monster Network.

    I am co-investigator on the project Capturing Chronic Illness


    Postgraduate research supervision

    My teaching

    My publications


    D McCormack (2012)Illicit Intimacies, The Rāmāyana and Synaesthetic Remembering in Shani Mootoo’s Valmiki’s Daughter, In: Critical Perspectives on Indo-Caribbean Women's Literature(9)pp. 203-228 Routledge
    D McCormack (2006)“Dreaming Across the Sea”: Queer Postcolonial Belongings in Shani Mootoo’s Novels, In: Critical Race and Whiteness Studies2(2)

    This article explores the potentiality of queer and postcolonial theories to imagine non-violent ways of belonging. Focusing on Shani Mootoo’s novels, Cereus Blooms at Night and He Drown She in the Sea, it suggests that the process of imagining relationships beside the demands of the colonial and heterosexual nation is a politically imperative project. This work is located at the intersections of queer and postcolonial theories in an attempt to, like Mootoo’s novels, render intelligible those bodies and histories that come into being outside of existing norms. In this sense, it suggests that by existing beside norms we can begin to reformulate, revisit and recreate boundaries of existence and belonging. Moreover, it argues that these actions are constantly in process and always coming into being, thus demanding perpetual critique and responsibility as political necessities. Finally, it suggests that there is a need to work with our own vulnerabilities rather than representing the human as a contained, coherent, invincible being. Through this idea of the vulnerable, articulated in Mootoo’s texts, we begin to see non-violent belonging as becoming imaginable.

    This article examines anxieties concerning organ transplantation in Nalo Hopkinson’s prize-winning novel Brown Girl in the Ring (1998). The main focus is how this novel re-imagines subjectivity and selfhood as an embodied metaphor for the reconfiguring of broader socio-political relations. In other words, this article analyses the relationship between the transplanted body and the body politic, arguing that a post-transplant identity, where there is little separation between donor and recipient, is the foundation for a politics based on responsibility for others. Such a responsibility poses a challenge to the race and class segregation that is integral to the post-apocalyptic world of Hopkinson’s novel. Transplantation is not a utopian vision of an egalitarian society coming together in one body; rather, this biotechnological intervention offers a potentially different mode of thinking what it means to work across race, class and embodied division, while always recalling the violence that might facilitate so-called scientific progress.

    D McCormack (2007)Queer Postcolonial Space: Forging Ethical Practices Out of Violence in Shani Mootoo’s Literary Works, In: Canadian Studies in Europe6pp. 237-250 The Central European Association for Canadian Studies in collaboration with Masaryk University

    This article explores the potentiality of literature to produce ethical ways of belonging. Through an exploration of the safe space that emerges in Shani Mootoo’s novel Cereus Blooms at Night, this article suggests that a notion of self-reflexive responsibility is one possible way to forge non-violent bodily and spatial boundaries. This ethical way of existing and reading comes into being through the imaginary queer postcolonial space of the novel. The direct relation between ethics and hope for the subject positions in Cereus Blooms at Night suggests there is hope for the reader to begin to produce ethical encounters with texts, bodies and spaces.

    D McCormack (2015)The Transplant Imaginary and Its Postcolonial Hauntings, In: Bodily Exchanges, Bioethics and Border Crossing: Perspectives on Giving, Selling and Sharing Bodies(9) Routledge
    D McCormack (2013)Book review - Jamie Heckert and Richard Cleminson (eds.), 'Anarchism and Sexuality: Ethics, Relationships and Power’, In: Feminist Legal Studies21pp. 113-116 Springer Netherlands

    Anarchism and Sexuality reaches out to revise existing histories, question present relations and put into action unimagined futures. This critical text emerges out of a conference, on the intersections of anarchism and sexuality, organised by the editors in 2006. Comprised of nine scholarly essays, four ‘poetic interludes’, an interview with Judith Butler and a preface by Judy Greenway, the text offers an interdisciplinary insight into the complex relations between ethics, power and everyday intimacies. It is a politically motivated collection, exploring how to make possible and liveable outlawed, non-normative and/or subversive desires, sexualities, movements, writings, gatherings, genders, collectivities and artistic expressions. Each piece engages with the overarching themes of the title, some proposing nuanced and thoughtful analyses of queer, desire, subjectivity and autonomy, and others examining historical trends of affect, anarchism, post-anarchism and post-structuralism. The authors are driven by an overarching passion to bring together (post-)anarchism and sexuality (particularly post-structuralism and queer theory), and most assert the absence of this intersectional dialogue in the broader and separate studies of anarchism and sexuality. The collection is further consolidated as a whole through the presence of recurring themes, histories and theoretical engagements, namely love; a politics of the everyday; a move away from governmental revolutions to micro-level actions; intimacy as political; caring for self and others (ethics); how power is resisted, mobilised and rendered ethical; and sex as both radically relational (even when with the self) and the potential to create less violent modes of coming together.

    D McCormack (2007)Intersections of Lesbian Studies and Postcolonial Studies: One Possible Future for Class, In: Journal of Lesbian Studies11(3-4)pp. 213-221

    This position piece addresses the decline of class as a mode of inquiry in Lesbian Studies and Postcolonial Studies. It argues that in spite of this decline, class continues to forcibly pervade all areas of our lives and, therefore, should be fundamental to the research praxis of these fields of study. It goes on to suggest that the intersections of these two disciplines are able to open up a space where questions regarding class and its global dimension in the twenty-first century can be addressed. It concludes by reflecting on the possibility of an ethical methodological approach to research.

    D McCormack (2008)Intersections of Lesbian Studies and Postcolonial Studies: One Possible Future for Class, In: Twenty-First Century Lesbian Studiespp. 213-222 Haworth Press

    This position piece addresses the decline of class as a mode of inquiry in Lesbian Studies and Postcolonial Studies. It argues that in spite of this decline, class continues to forcibly pervade all areas of our lives and, therefore, should be fundamental to the research praxis of these fields of study. It goes on to suggest that the intersections of these two disciplines are able to open up a space where questions regarding class and its global dimension in the twenty-first century can be addressed. It concludes by reflecting on the possibility of an ethical methodological approach to research.

    D McCormack (2012)Diasporic Imaginaries - a review of Pilar Cuder-Dominguez and Belen Martin-Lucas, 'Transnational Poetics: Asian Canadian Women's Fiction of the 1990s', In: Canadian Literature: a quarterly of criticism and review215(Winter)pp. 160-161 University of British Columbia (Canada)

    Transnational Poetics marks the 1990s as the decade when Asian Canadian women’s literature flourished both inside and outside of Canada. Intertwining literary analysis with a discussion of the politics of publishing, the authors elaborate on how Canada’s multicultural policies have enabled a proliferation of Asian Canadian fiction. Conversely, they also demonstrate how this somewhat positive outcome of multiculturalism is restrained by the expectations of publishers, the public, and academics that often remain attached to limited ideas of what constitutes Asianness in the Canadian literary context. Analyzing both a remarkable number of texts and a broad range of genres, Transnational Poetics offers an excellent introduction to Asian Canadian women’s fiction and to its predominant themes.

    D McCormack (2015)Hopeful Monsters: A Queer Hope for Evolutionary Difference, In: Somatechnics5(2)pp. 154-173

    This article explores how contemporary literary and visual texts create a scientific imaginary haunted by the work of the discredited evolutionary biologist Richard Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt's theory of the hopeful monster placed that which is different, changing and monstrous at the heart of evolution. The aim of this article is therefore to examine how macromutation (also known as saltational theory) makes manifest an anxiety, but also an exciting potentiality, about the human's interrelational existence with plant, animal, inanimate and technological life. It moves between Goldschmidt's theories of evolution and cultural representations that resonate with his work to suggest that the hopeful monster questions the dehumanisation of and violence towards different others by bringing monstrous difference to the centre of species' survival. The focus here is how Goldschmidt's ideas reverberate in contemporary culture, particularly how these resonances invite a questioning of the supposed threat of difference to imagined individual and national security and unity. Engaging with the Hollywood film series X-Men and Hiromi Goto's collection of short stories Hopeful Monsters, this article explores how these texts make manifest the ontological anxieties of facing (our) monsters, and thus the environmental and socio-political consequences and potentialities of being of, with and next to difference.

    D McCormack (2012)Intimate Borders: The Ethics of Human Organ Transplantation in Contemporary Film, In: Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies34(3-4)pp. 170-183 Routledge

    The image of the intruder is central to human organ transplantation rhetoric. The external, fleshy other crosses a supposedly definitive and divisive line by traversing and settling inside the epidermal layer of an other's self. While transplant teams make a putative claim that grafting is essential to the continued survival of critically ill patients, they also stress the dangers of rejection, wherein the originary body attacks the unfamiliar presence of an other's organs. The organicity of the rejection process—that the body resists incorporating organs from an other—seemingly shows how the skin marks the limit of the self, making the peaceful cohabitation of self and other an impossibility. The immune system is figured as an army always ready to attack any outside intrusion that may threaten the integrity, and therefore the survival, of the self. Here, outsiders pose risks and should be managed, surveilled, and even destroyed for the sake of protecting the sanctity of the wholesome, healthy body. Yet, in order for the transplant recipient to survive, there must be a repression of this system of defence; it must be weakened to let the other do its life-saving work of pumping vitality into the otherwise waning body. Highly toxic immunosuppressive pharmaceutics prevent the immune system from performing its militaristic duties, allowing the organ of an other to labor away at its everyday functions of keeping the other/self alive. In this article, I examine three contemporary films that bring together histories of transnational racism and ethical quandaries regarding organ donation: Miguel Sapochnik's Repo Men (2010 Sapochnik , M. (Dir.) ( 2010 ). Repo Men [DVD]. USA: Universal. ), David Moreau's The Eye (2008 Moreau , D. (Dir.) ( 2008 ). The Eye [DVD]. USA: Lionsgate. ), and Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things (2002 Frears , S. (Dir.) ( 2002 ). Dirty Pretty Things [DVD]. UK: Miramax. ). These films are diverse in genre and diegesis, and yet, I argue, they all share a preoccupation with how the biotechnological imperative to cut through bodily borders is intimately tied to state control, surveillance, and protection of geopolitical boundaries. The Eye and Repo Men are popular Hollywood productions designed to appeal to a mass audience through their emphasis on the spectacle of fear, stereotypical gendered and raced characterizations, and gory, violent visualities. The Eye is an American adaptation of a Hong Kong production (Pang and Chung 2002 Pang , D. and Chun , O. P. ( 2002 ). Gin gwai (The Eye) [DVD]. Hong Kong : Palm Pictures . ), which was originally concerned less with romantic self-discoveries and more with the deeply disturbing (and very scary) ways in which transplants haunt our imaginaries. In contrast, Dirty Pretty Things attempts to paint a more complex picture of precariously legal migrants in London through the social realist genre. Using a grainy visual effect to emphasize the lack of “gloss,” and thus the focus on reality, in these migrants' lives, the film nevertheless borrows from Hollywood sensationalism with its images of bloody body parts, scenes of violence toward women, and largely stereotypical national and racialized representations. However, Dirty Pretty Things is the sole film on which this article focuses that is, arguably, driven by a political agenda. It is openly concerned with the politics of race and gender in contemporary Britain—a subject that has been of some interest to Frears throughout his career—and with transnational inequalities. Although the other two films may not offer overt political messages, I suggest that slippages between bodily and geopolitical borders open up a critical and political space where the viewer can engage with the intersecting issues of biotechnologies and transnational migrations. I further argue that all three films convey a politics of belonging deeply invested in ethics, and thus in a concern with hospitality. Organ donation is currently carrying the weight of cultural anxieties not only regarding divisions between self and other, but also concerning national boundaries of belonging and whether “different others” are to be welcomed or expulsed.

    D McCormack (2014)Posthumanist Ethics and Organ Transplantation, In: Tidsskrift for kjønnsforskning2014(2)pp. 173-178 Universitetsforlaget AS
    D McCormack, S Salmenniemi (2016)The biopolitics of precarity and the self, In: European Journal of Cultural Studies19(1)pp. 3-15

    This Special Issue explores the biopolitics of precarity and the self. In so doing, its aim is to critically examine the changing landscape of technologies of the self and techniques of domination in late capitalism. It brings Foucault’s work on biopolitics into conversation with recent feminist, Marxist, postcolonial, disability and queer scholarship on precarity. In a feminist tradition of thinking through relationality and ethics, this Special Issue engages with those moments when technologies of regulation, surveillance and normalization do not quite work. ‘The Biopolitics of Precarity and the Self’ analyzes recent debates on precarity and precariousness in relation to migration and labour, health and illness, and the formation of the self and collectivities. It identifies temporality and care of both the self and others as key dimensions of precarity and explores how biopolitical structures of neoliberal capitalism institutionalize precarity that exacerbates existing global and local inequalities. We therefore raise questions around what it means to live, endure, survive and make life and labour possible without doing harm to the self or others. In this sense, this Special Issue brings to the fore the temporalities, politics and ethics of what is not always recognized in biomedical practices, labour migrations, media representations, labour of the self and everyday agency.

    D McCormack, D Riggs (2015)The Ethics of Biomedical Tourism, In: Somatechnics5(1)pp. 1-11 Edinburgh University Press

    In Precarious Life, Judith Butler explores vulnerability as foundational to human relational subjectivity. By arguing for embodied selfhood as more than individual ownership, Butler does not suggest that we lack agency or that we should not lay claim to bodily rights. Rather, she insists that such ontological indebtedness to others is the potential for rethinking ethics, whereby the body's invariably social dimension – what we might call its intimate relationality with others – demands a recognition of how any bodily claims about the self or one's identity are always claims for and about others. Furthermore, such embodied sociality requires a response-ability (Oliver 2001): a response to others that recognises this ontological indebtedness and in so doing does not violate the bond that makes self and other possible. This is an ethics where harm to others is a violation of the very thing that makes life possible, and thus represents an attempt to think through how bodily violence might be avoided on both an individual and collective level.

    This article analyses the ways in which Frantz Fanon's revolutionary narrative in L'An V de la révolution algérienne is reworked in selected novels of Tahar Ben Jelloun and Shani Mootoo. Focusing on Fanon's transitional politics, it draws out how these novelists employ gender transitioning to challenge colonial, nationalistic and familial violence. The article suggests that the intersections of anti-colonial rhetoric and familial discourse present in Fanon's work are reconfigured in these novels through a questioning of assumed gendered, sexual and national taxonomies of belonging. It proposes a notion of community that seeks to avoid the reiteration of colonial and familial violence through a transitional politics and an ethics of becoming.

    D McCormack (2014)Queer Postcolonial Narratives and the Ethics of Witnessing Bloomsbury Publishing USA

    With a focus on the aesthetics and politics of queer postcolonial narratives, this book examines how unspeakable traumas of colonial and familial violence are communicated through the body.

    D McCormack (2016)Transplant Temporalities and Deadly Reproductive Futurity in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams, In: European Journal of Cultural Studies19(1)pp. 51-68 Sage

    This article explores the generally pathologized relationship between organ recipients and the families of deceased donors. Its focus is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2003 production 21 Grams because this film brings to the fore both the urgent desire of the organ recipient to be close to the donor family and the purported pathological ramifications of such encounters. Furthermore, the formal representation of time portrays the very ways in which normative structures of temporality are disrupted and perhaps irreversibly altered by the organ transfer process. The article explores how the film forecloses the possibility of the organ recipient and the donor family creating a viable relationship. It argues that the film terminates a transplant temporality by structuring the narrative ending through a normative linear trajectory of reproductive heterosexuality. It concludes with an examination of how the donor family returns to a life of sameness where social norms are restored and repeated, and where transplantees accept a deadly fate so that anxieties about bodily relationality and disruptive temporalities can be assuaged.

    Donna McCormack (2018)Queer Disability, Postcolonial Feminism and the Monsters of Evolution, In: A Feminist Companion to the Posthumanitiespp. 153-164 Springer International Publishing

    This article offers an original analysis of contemporary representations of evolutionary theory. It does so by turning to the lesser-known work of evolutionary biologist Richard Goldschmidt, who placed the “hopeful monster” at the heart of evolution. Diverging from the critiques of evolutionary theory as a colonial, able-ist, racist and misogynist discourse, this article proposes Goldschmidt’s The Material Basis of Evolution as the potential to reconfigure feminist, postcolonial, crip and queer approaches to narratives of origins. Focusing on the ever-rising presence of macromutation in contemporary literary and visual texts, this article offers an important contribution to feminist, postcolonial, crip and queer thinking on inter- and intra-relationality between species and environments, on difference, and on the temporality of species development. It situates its analysis of Hiromi Goto’s Hopeful Monsters in contemporary Canadian politics of colonisation, multiculturalism and the increased medicalisation of racialised and disabled bodies. In so doing, if offers a considerable contribution to the analysis of the necropolitical landscape of postcolonial belonging, addressing how little known theories of evolution may challenge such structural inequalities and violence.

    D McCormack (2006)Book review - Jean Bobby Noble, 'Masculinities without Men? Female Masculinity in Twentieth- Century Fictions', In: Journal of the History of Sexuality15(2)pp. 333-338 University of Texas Press

    Jean Bobby Noble's Masculinities without Men? focuses not on clothes as the marker of gender destabilization but rather on the flesh itself. Through an exploration of a limited selection of twentieth-century fictions Noble suggests that metatextual events have the potential to produce as yet unimagined ways of inhabiting bodies. This book states its obvious indebtedness to Judith Halberstam's groundbreaking work, Female Masculinity. Where Noble's text differs is in its willingness to explore the relationship between all guises of masculinity, including masculinity performed by "men." Moreover, its aim is significantly different, in that Female Masculinity "is primarily concerned with lesbian masculinity," whereas Masculinities Without Men? "seeks a post-identity politic and, at times, post-queer, anti-heteronormative but trans-ed materialization of masculinity" (xxxix). Although Noble claims to trace a "genealogy of reading practices" (92) of female masculinity in twentieth-century fictions, the more than sixty-year gap between the publication of Radclyffe Hall's novel and the next text discussed as well as the space given to each text (for example, eighty-nine pages to The Well of Loneliness and fifteen to Boys Don't Cry) suggest less an engagement with the complexities of fictional twentieth-century representations of female masculinity and more a focus on texts that support the author's thesis.