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Dr Mark Steven

Senior Lecturer in 20th and 21st Century Literature (E&R)


01392 724066

I'm interested in the poetics of social transformation.

My thinking is especially alive to questions of how literature and cinema might help us envisage or even engineer a better world than the dumpster fire we now inhabit. Within this frame, I tend to write about how different forms respond to the vicissitudes of modern capitalism, to the practicalities of revolution, and to the possibility of communism. I make no bones about the fact that this research is fuelled by political commitment. 

My most recent book, Class War: A Literary History, was published by Verso in May 2023. This book weaves together literature and politics to chart the making and unmaking of social class through revolutionary combat in a narrative that spans the globe and more than two centuries of history. You can read an excerpt from its postscript here. I've done a good deal of press for this book, but I think this interview does a reasonable job of presenting the book as relative to some of what I teach here at Exeter and to my experience as a working-class bookworm. 

I have also published extensively in the field of modernism and I maintain personal and professional investments in the political dimensions of narrative and poetic form, in the aesthetics of horror, and in critical theory as a grounds for solidarity.

I am the author of two other books: Red Modernism and Splatter Capital.

I am editor of Understanding Marx, Understanding Modernism and am co-editor of The Cinema of Theo Angelopoulos and Styles of Extinction: Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

My academic writing has appeared in Modernism/modernityTextual PracticeSubStanceScreenFilm-PhilosophyScreening the PastPostmodern CultureAffirmationsJames Joyce Quarterly, and elsewhere. Non-academic writing is in CommuneJacobinCounterpunch, and elsewhere. Sometimes I write poems.

Office Hours: Mondays 12.30-1.30; Tuesdays 11.30-12.30. Email for bookings. 

Research supervision

I have a very wide range of research interests and would be happy to speak with potential research candidates in any of the fields or about any of the figures mentioned on this profile page.

I am especially keen to supervise candidates interested in: 

  • Literature and cinema in relation to political economy 
  • Literature and cinema in relation to revolutionary commitment 
  • Modernism in literature and cinema 
  • Marxism, Marxist literary studies, Marxist film studies 
  • Communism, socialism, and other anti-capitalist imaginaries   

I am committed to supporting BME, LGBTIQ, and working-class students, and will happily respond to general inquiries. 


External impact and engagement

I have written journalism and have been featured in interviews and articles for national and international media. My words have appeared in the following places (with links, where available): 

Contribution to discipline

I peer-review critical work for numerous journals and presses (including Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Illinois). Journal and press editors: if you would like me to review an article or manuscript please email.


I joined the University of Exeter in January 2018.

My former life was in Australia, where I was the first member of my family to finish school let alone go to university.

I started teaching in Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. I was then employed as a Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of New South Wales, specializing in modernist and world cinemas. 

I left Australia when my ARC-approved research project, "Red Hollywood: Communist Style Before the Blacklist" (335,788AUD), was personally vetoed by the conservative minister for education.

While this might have been a targetted attempt at ending an academic career for purely ideological reasons, there remains some joy in pointing out the irony that my project was to have retold the story of how numerous filmmakers were denied work because of real and alleged political commitments.

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