Department of English and Comparative Literature

Professor Josh Cohen

Position held:
Professor of Modern Literary Theory

+44 (0)20 7919 7445

j.cohen (

Room 402
4th Floor
Warmington Tower

Office hours:
Wed 14.00-15.00

BA (Hons.) in English, University of Birmingham; MA in American Cultural Studies, University of Exeter; DPhil in American Literature, University of Sussex; Appointed to Goldsmiths in 1996.


Convenor, Pathway in Modern Literary Theory for MA in Comparative Literary Studies. I teach options for the MA on Literature and Philosophy and Freud.

Areas of supervision

Current areas of PhD supervision:

  • The figure of the child in the work of Maurice Blanchot
  • The idea of the posthumous in modern and contemporary literature
  • Kafka and Language Mysticism
  • Drawing and unconscious knowledge
  • Paul Auster and philosophies of solitude
  • ‘Parafiction’ in contemporary art and literature
  • ‘Phantom limbs’ in psychoanalysis and literature
  • Poetry and inspiration (joint supervision)
  • Realism and the short story (joint supervision)

I have supervised 11 PhDs to successful completion in the areas of American Literature, Literary Theory, Psychoanalysis and Holocaust Writing.

I have been Internal or External Examiner for 23 PhD theses.

Grants & awards

  • Longlisted for JQ-Wingate Literary Award 2014/15 for The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark
  • Winner, British Medical Association Chair’s Choice Award for The Private Life, 2014
  • Winner, British Psychoanalytical Society Harold Steward Essay Prize, for best essay on Independent psychoanalysis, 2009
  • AHRC Research Leave Awards, 2001 and 2006

Professional activities

  • Practicing psychoanalyst, Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society
  • Various media activities, including articles and reviews for The Guardian, New Statesman and TLS, Books podcast interviews for The Guardian and radio appearances on BBC programmes Analysis and Witness
  • Judge, Guardian First Book Award, 2014
  • Judge, JQ-Wingate Literary Award 2013/14
  • Member of British Comparative Literature Association, Modern Languages Association of America
  • Organiser of seminar series in Jewish Textualities (1999-2002), and of conferences on Evil and Suffering in Jewish Tradition (2002) and Wallace Stevens (2004)
  • Visiting Scholar, Center for Jewish Studies, University of Harvard, Autumn 1999

Research interests

My key interests are in psychoanalysis (I am a practising clinician as well as an academic), literature and philosophy (especially Blanchot, Adorno and Benjamin), and American literature since the mid-nineteenth century (especially Melville, James, Stevens and contemporary fiction), and much of my work is at the interface of these areas. My most recent book, The Private Life, addressed issues of privacy in psychoanalysis, literature and contemporary culture.

I’m currently working on a book on the place of inertia and lassitude in the history of culture and ideas. 


Selected publications

Books (authored)

  • The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark (London: Granta, 2013; US edition Counterpoint Press, forthcoming April 2015)
  • How to Read Freud (London: Granta, 2005; US edition W.W. Norton, September 2005; Korean translation 2007, Greek, Spanish and Polish translations 2008)
  • Interrupting Auschwitz: Art, Religion, Philosophy (London and New York: Continuum, February 2003)
  • Spectacular Allegories: Postmodern American Writing and the Politics of Seeing (London and Sterling, VA: Pluto, 1998)


Books (contributions)

  • ‘Psychoanalytic Bodies: Psychic and “Actual” Bodies in Modern Literature’, D. A. Hillman and U. Maude (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Body (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming May 2015)
  •  ‘Bruce Nauman, Jean Laplanche and the Art of Helplessness’, J. Fletcher and N. Ray (eds.) Seductions and Enigmas: Laplanche, Theory, Culture (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 2014), pp326-43
  •  ‘“The strange unlike”: Wallace Stevens’ Poetics of Resemblance’, B. Eeckhout and E. Ragg (eds.), Wallace Stevens Across the Atlantic (London: Palgrave, 2008), pp107-118
  • ‘“I-Not-I”: Narcissism Beyond the One and the Other’, A. Gaitanides and P. Curk (eds.), Narcissism: A Critical Reader (London: Karnac, 2007), pp31-46
  • ‘Roth’s Doubles’, T. Parrish (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Philip Roth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp82-93
  • ‘No Matter: Aesthetic Theory and the Self-Annihilating Artwork’, D. Rudrum (ed.), Literature and Philosophy (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006)
  • ‘Post-Holocaust Philosophy’, D. Stone (ed.) A Companion to Holocaust Historiography (London: Palgrave, 2004), pp469-83
  •  ‘Unfolding: Reading After Romanticism’, A. Benjamin and B. Hanssen (eds.) Walter Benjamin and Romanticism (London and New York: Continuum Books, 2003) pp98-109 + 232-36
  • ‘Dialectic of Entanglement: Adorno, Auschwitz and the Contradictions of Representation’, H. Briel and A. Kramer (eds.), In Practice: Adorno, Critical Theory and Cultural Studies (Bern: Peter Lang, 2001),  pp15-29
  • ‘The Holocaust and Representation: Three Philosophical Perspectives’ (translated into Swedish), K. Viklund (ed.) Bilden av Förintelsen (Stockholm: Swedish Film Institute, 1998), pp47-58
  • ‘James Ellroy, Los Angeles and the Spectacular Crisis of Masculinity’, P. Messent (ed.), Criminal Proceedings: The Contemporary American Crime Novel (London and Sterling, VA: Pluto Press, 1998), pp160 -178



  • ‘”No room for truth”: On the Precariousness of Life and Narrative in The Last of the Just’, European Judaism (Volume 47, Number 1, Spring 2014), pp15-25
  • ‘Reflexive Incomprehension: On Lydia Davis’, Textual Practice, (Volume 24, Number 3, 2010), pp501-16
  • ‘Amnesiac Passages: Melville, Blanchot and the Question of Psychoanalytic Reading’ Synthesis: Online Journal of Criticism and Theory (Volume 2, 2010),
  • ‘The Strangeness in the Strangeness’ in Static 07 (online journal of The London Consortium),
  • ‘Aesthetic Theory, Psychoanalysis and the Ironic End of Art’, parallax (vol 11 #4, Autumn 2005) pp52-61
  • ‘Religion Against Politics?: Versions of the State in Modern Jewish Philosophy’ Jewish Quarterly (#188, Winter 2002) pp23-28
  • ‘“A Different Insignificance”: The Poet and the Witness in Agamben’, Paragraph: A Journal of Modern Critical Theory (Special Issue on Giorgio Agamben) (Vol 25, # 2, July 2002), pp36-51
  •  ‘Desertions: Paul Auster, Edmond Jabès and the Writing of Auschwitz’, M/MLA Journal (Special Issue on ‘Witness: The Real, The Unspeakable and the Construction of Narrative’) (Vol. 33, #3/ Vol. 34, # 1, Spring 2001), pp 92-105
  • ‘“Disgrace of Revelation”: I.B. Singer’s Holocaust Impiety’, Textual Practice (Vol. 12, #3, Winter 1998), pp443-457
  • ‘Phenomenologies of Mourning: Gillian Rose and Walter Benjamin’, Women: A Cultural Review (Special Issue on Gillian Rose) (Vol. 9, #1, April 1998), pp47-61
  • ‘Joan Didion, Los Angeles and the Opacity of Urban Spectacle’, Over Here: A European Journal of American Culture (Vol. 16, #1), pp18-29
  • ‘James Ellroy, Los Angeles and the Spectacular Crisis of Masculinity’, Women: A Cultural Review (Vol. 7, #1), pp1-15
  • ‘The Look of the Sight Machine: Robert Coover and the Question of Cinematic Vision’, Diatribe (Winter 1994-95, #4), pp12-21
  • ‘Film, Postmodernity, Systems in Don DeLillo’s White Noise’, Over Here: A European Journal of American Culture (Vol. 13, # 1, Summer 1993), pp115-24


Review essays etc.

  • ‘Private Parts: Writers and the Battle for Our Inner Lives’, New Statesman, 08/ 04/ 2014
  • ‘The Trouble You Reported’, Review of Lydia Davis, Can’t and Won’t, TLS, 11/ 04/ 2014
  • ‘Philosophy and the Holocaust: Representing, Remembering, Thinking’, Review Article of Dan Stone (ed.), Theoretical Interpretations of the Holocaust and Berel Lang, Holocaust Representation: Art Within the Limits of History and Ethics in Jewish Quarterly, Autumn 2002
  • Review of Andrew Benjamin, Philosophy’s Literature, in Textual Practice, Winter 2002, pp34-37
  • Review essay on Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer and Remnants of Auschwitz in Textual Practice, Winter 2001
  • Review of M. Jay and T. Brennan (eds.), Vision in Context in Textual Practice (Vol.12, #2)
  • ‘Paris, Texas’ - Review of Jean-Philippe Mathy, Extrême-Occident: French Intellectuals and America in New Formations (#24, Winter 1994)


I have in addition published numerous reviews in such journals as Textual Practice, The European Legacy, The British Journal of Phenomenology, Journal of American Studies, Jewish Quarterly and TLS.


Content last modified: 16 Dec 2014

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