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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 fueled by political commitment. 

My next book, Class War: A Literary History, will be published by Verso in early 2023. Here's how the publishers describe it:

A thrilling and vivid work of history, Class War 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, Mark Steven traces the history of class war from the Haitian Revolution to Black Lives Matter. Surveying the literature of revolution, from the poetry of Shelley and Byron to the novels of Émile Zola and Jack London, exploring the writings of Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, and Assata Shakur, Class War reveals the interplay between military action and the politics of class, showing how solidarity flourishes in times of conflict. Written with verve and ranging across diverse historical settings, Class War traverses industrial battles, guerrilla insurgencies, and anticolonial resistance, as well as large-scale combat operations waged against capitalism’s regimes and its interstate system. In our age of economic crisis, ecological catastrophe, and planetary unrest, Steven tells the stories of those whose actions will help guide future militants toward a revolutionary horizon.

I am in the early stages of a new project titled Fossil Fictions: Modern Literature and Prehistoric Life. Conceived of in a reading of Dickens, this project will draw on a wealth of literary and scientific evidence to trace how the fossilized remnants of prehistoric life intersperse modern literary history, with bones and shells and exoskeletons emerging in some of the most surprising places, often revealing new things about the world we have come to inhabit. Specifically, the project seeks to shed light on English literature’s fascination with prehistoric life in the century after industrial revolution and by doing so unearth the buried material histories of economic and everyday life in Britain 

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

I am the author of 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 Practice, SubStanceScreen, Film-PhilosophyScreening the Past, Postmodern CultureAffirmations, James Joyce Quarterly, and elsewhere.

Non-academic writing is in Commune, Jacobin, Période, Infrastructural Inequalities, and elsewhere.

Sometimes I write poems.

Research supervision

I have a very wide range of research interests, 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, and tend to be enthusiastic about what others will tell you are absurdly overambitious projects. 

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 emai.


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 and 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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