Daniela Caselli

Daniela Caselli


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Personal profile

Research interests

Daniela Caselli is Professor of modern literature, with specialisms in literary modernism, critical theory, comparative literature, and gender and sexuality studies. She sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of Beckett Studies and Feminist Modernist Studies.  

Samuel Beckett is one of her main research interests. She has been President of the Beckett Society between 2017 and 2021. She has written on Beckett and Dante (Beckett's Dantes. Intertextuality in the Fiction and Criticism, Manchester University Press, 2005; paperback 2009), the role of manuscripts and the archiveBeckett’s reception in ItalyBeckett and Italian literature and Beckett and Leopardi, and edited Beckett and Nothing: Trying to Understand Beckett (MUP, 2010; paperback 2012; open access).

Her most recent book brings together her interests in Beckett, critical theory, and gender and sexuality studies: Insufferable: Beckett, Gender and Sexuality (Cambridge University Press, 2023) reconsiders questions of literary tradition and periodisation (the role of decadence and race relations in an early 1930s poem published by Nancy Cunard in Henry Music; his translations for her Anthology of Black culture; the relation between All Strange Away and Joyce’s ‘Nighttown’ section in Ulysses); aesthetics (L’image and How It Is); material presence on stage (the Texts for Nothing and their 2016 theatre adaptation); gender and sexual politics (‘Moly’, Not I, Dream of Fair to Middling Women); and disturbing attachments (the correspondence with Pamela Mitchell, Company). Beckett's work, in which sexuality is temporarily consolatory but ultimately unbearable, is committed to the estrangement of sexual aims and objects and remains fearless in its exploration of the proximity between familial and sexual love. The politics of gender and sexuality, the book argues, make us see an unfamiliar Beckett, harder to idealise but no less compelling.

Her focus on modernism, gender and sexuality led to the publication of Improper Modernism: Djuna Barnes’s Bewildering Corpus (Routledge, 2009; paperback 2016), a book which analysed for the first time Barnes's entire oeuvre, including her manuscripts. It argued for the need to recognise the work's resistance to normalising writing and reading practices, including those emerging from the modernist movement itself. 

Building on her interest in modernism, gender politics, and Dante, Caselli wrote on Dorothy Richardson, gender, Dante, and political economy (Comparative Literature, 2017, funded by The British Academy). The John Rylands Research Institute supported new research on modernist literature that engaged with Dante but refused to use him as cultural capital (see Oxford Handbook to Dante 2021).

Her article 'Bucolic Mussolini: Sexual Politics in Winifred Holtby's South Riding' is forthcoming in Modernism/modernity (accepted in January 2024). The study brings together archival research and feminist theory to argue that through a Woolfian approach to sexual politics, an engagement with the genre of romance, and a fascination with heterosexuality as an institution, South Riding (1936) encouraged its readers to first experience, and then resist, fascism’s antirational seductive power. Offering new archival findings, engaging with recent scholarship on interwar British writing, and historicizing current theoretical preoccupations in gender and sexuality studies, the article demonstrates how South Riding is a key text to nuance the received ‘great divide’ narrative of the period.

Caselli is currently writing a book entitled The Modernist Child. This transnational project has emerged from work on affect theory, gender and the child (Feminist Theory), literary and sexual experimentalism in interwar American literature (Cambridge Companion to American Gay and Lesbian Literature, edited by Scott Herring), and childhood in Walter Benjamin's Youth Hour radio programmes in the 1930s ('Attack of the Easter Bunnies’, Parallax OA). The Wellcome Trust has funded new research in the archive of the 'Church of England Society for the Rescue of the Waifs and Strays' (now 'The Children's Society'), which will be part of The Modernist Child



I teach modern literature, especially modernism, critical theory, and gender and sexuality studies.

My work brings together twentieth-century studies, comparative literature, archival research and literary theory. 


Postgraduate Opportunities

I am interested in supervising doctoral students working on literary modernism, gender and sexuality studies, and critical theory. I am especially interested in projects on Samuel Beckett, Djuna Barnes, and critical modernist studies.  

I am currently supervising a number of theses on: the Red Rag archives (a Collaborative Doctoral Award shared with Prof. Harker and the People's History Museum); WWI nursing in a decolonial perspective; speculative fiction and trans theory.    

Previously supervised doctoral theses include:

Emma Shaw, 'Pedestrian Modernism' (with Dr Howard Booth)

Zoë Miller, 'Metaphors of Sexual Violence in Modernism' (with Dr Robert Spencer)

Dr Eleanor Green, 'Queer Sexuality in Samuel Beckett's Late Prose' (with Prof Jackie Stacey)

Dr Alex Bennett, 'Modernist temporalities: deathlike lives and lively deaths in Virginia Woolf, Ford Madox Ford, and Elizabeth Bowen' (with Dr Robert Spencer)

Dr Zoë Gosling, 'Modernism and Mathemathics' (with Prof Mike Prest of the School of Mathematics)

Dr Federica Coluzzi 'Marginal Dantismo: the Scholarly Reception of Dante in Late Victoran England (1860-1890)' (with Dr Guyda Armstrong). See Dante Beyond Influence: Rethinking Reception in Victorian Literary Culture (Manchester University Press, 2021). https://www.waterstones.com/book/dante-beyond-influence/federica-coluzzi//9781526152442

Dr Katharina Boeckenhöff, 'Border Crossing and Gender Reconfigurations Between the Wars’ (with Prof Laura Doan).

Dr William Simms, 'Unlawful Fictions: Literature, Obscenity, and Psychoanalysis' (with Prof Ian Parker). See: Obscenity, Psychoanalysis and Modernism: Lawrence and Joyce on Trial (Routledge, 2022) https://www.routledge.com/Obscenity-Psychoanalysis-and-Literature-Lawrence-and-Joyce-on-Trial/Simms/p/book/9781032064864

Dr Şima İmşir: 'Bodies of Exception: Literary Constructions of Illness in Women’s Fiction in Turkish, 1912-1994' (with Dr Anastasia Valassopoulos). See Health, Literature and Women in Twentieth-Century Turkey: Bodies of Exception (Routledge, 2023) https://www.routledge.com/Health-Literature-and-Women-in-Twentieth-Century-Turkey-Bodies-of-Exception/mir/p/book/9781032009438 

Dr Andy Grundy, 'Rightly to be great: Dionysiac Greatness in Nietzsche and Shakespeare' (with Prof Jeremy Tambling)

Dr John Roache, 'Marginalia after Modernism: the case of David Foster Wallace' (with Dr Kaye Mitchell)

Dr Ben Moore, 'Invisible Architectures: Ideologies of Space in the Nineteenth-Century City' (with Prof Jeremy Tambling)

Dr Veronica Barnsley, 'Reading the Child Between the British Raj and the Indian Nation' (with Dr Anastasia Valassopoulos)

Dr Suryia Nayak, 'Re-Reading Audre Lorde: Declaring the Activism of Black Feminist Theory' (with Prof Erica Burman) See Race, Gender and the Activism of Black Feminist Theory: Working with Audre Lorde (Routledge, 2014). https://www.amazon.co.uk/Activism-Feminist-Concepts-Critical-Psychology/dp/1848721757

Dr Duncan Hay, 'Form, Space and Memory: Materialist Readings of Iain Sinclair's London Writing' (with Prof Bertrand Taithe)

Dr Asyia Bulatova, 'The Modernist Essay' (with Dr Kaye Mitchell)

Dr Shravika Damunupola, 'Constructions of the Child in Contemporary Sri-Lankan Fiction'

Dr Iain Bailey, 'Beckett and the Bible' (with Prof Terry Eagleton). See Samuel Beckett and the Bible (Bloomsbury, 2015). https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/samuel-beckett-and-the-bible-9781474250252/

Dr Benjamin Ware, 'The Dialectic of the Ladder: Wittgenstein, the Tractatus and Modernism' (with Prof Terry Eagleton). See The Dialectic of the Ladder: Wittgenstein, the Tractatus and Modernism (Bloomsbury, 2015) https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/dialectic-of-the-ladder-9781472591425/

Prof. Ingrid Palmary, 'Situating Women in War and Displacement' (with Prof Erica Burman)


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality

Areas of expertise

  • PR English literature
  • PN0080 Criticism
  • PE English

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Creative Manchester


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