Russell Williams

Assistant Professor

  • Department: Comparative Literature and English
  • Office: 
    G-108
  • Office Hours: 
    Mondays & Thursdays 10h30-11h30, or by appointment

See Courses >>

Professor Williams came to AUP in 2013 after completing his doctoral studies at the University of London Institute in Paris and teaching at Université Paris-Est. His research focuses primarily on the novel and his PhD thesis explored the style, poetics and narrative technique of the French writer Michel Houellebecq. Professor Williams is also a Fellow at the AUP Teaching and Learning Center

In addition to his ongoing work on Houellebecq and contemporary French writing, Professor Williams’ research concerns American literature of the same period, the cultural resonances between French and English language writing, and European detective fiction, particularly the work of néo-polar writers Thierry Jonquet and Jean-Patrick Manchette. He has also published on the relationships between writing, extremity and intoxication and is increasingly interested in the complex relationships between writing, reading and technology. As well as literary fiction, Professor Williams is interested in contemporary cinema, TV series, visual art, French pop, experimental music and noise. His journalism and literary criticism regularly appears in publications including the Times Literary Supplement, the New Statesman, the Los Angeles Review of Books and The Quietus. He also writes for his website, linked above, and tweets at @russwilliams_uk.

Professor Williams has recently, with Dr Carole Sweeney (Goldsmiths University London), co-edited a special issue of the scholarly journal Modern and Contemporary France on Michel Houellebecq. With Dr Anna-Louise Milne (University of London Institute in Paris), he is preparing a volume examining contemporary writing in French for Cambridge University Press. His book on Houellebecq, 'Pathos, poetry and politics in Michel Houellebecq's fiction' will be published in 2019 with Rodopi/Brill. He has recently completed scholarly articles on Houellebecq and terrorism, Houellebecq's supposed 'plagiarism' and how the cultural logic of information management manifests in Houellebecq's literary style, all of which will be published in 2019-20.



Education/Degrees

  • PhD, The University of London Institute in Paris
  • MA, The University of Manchester
  • BA, The University of Liverpool

Publications

Books
  • Pathos, poetry and politics in Michel Houellebecq's fiction, 'Faux Titre' (Leiden: Rodopi-Brill, 2019)
  • w/ Marcela Lacub and Hervé Le Bras, Fourier, Kafka, Houellebecq: trois théories sur l'enfer conjugal (Paris: Descartes et Cie, February 2018)
  • w/ Eugene Brennan, Literature and Intoxication: Writing, Politics and the Experience of Excess (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)
  • w/ Alastair Hemmens, Autour de l’extrême littéraire (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012)
Peer reviewed articles
  • 'Uncomfortable proximity. Literary technique, authorial provocations and dog whistles in Michel Houellebecq’s fiction', Modern & Contemporary France, 2019, 27:1, 61-76, DOI: 10.1080/09639489.2018.1557128
  • 'Une poétique de la neutralité : soumission, anomie et inertie dans la fiction de Michel Houellebecq', in Raphaël Baroni & Samuel Estier (eds), Les "voix" de Michel Houellebecq, Actes du Colloque de l'Université de Lausanne 2016, Fabula, <http://www.fabula.org/colloques/sommaire3250.php>
  • Michel Houellebecq and Crime Fiction – between polar and poésie’, in Jean Kaempfer and André Vanoncini (eds.), Revue critique de fixxion française contemporaine, No. 10
  • ‘« La transgression ne m’intéresse pas, pour le dire brutalement ». Michel Houellebecq, critic of transgression’, in Elizabeth Benjamin and Jessica Goodman (eds.), MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities, MHRA, Vol. 9, 2014, pp. 67-83
Book chapters
  • 'La vie littéraire inconnue de Michel Houellebecq', in Agathe Novak-Lechevalier (ed), Cahier Houellebecq (Paris: Editions de l'Herne, 2017)
  • ‘Writing and Intoxication: Drunken Philosophers, Crack Addicts and the Perpetual Present’, in Russell Williams and Eugene Brennan (eds.), Literature and Intoxication: Writing, Politics and the Experience of Excess (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 25-48
  • ‘« La souffrance à la fois pénétrante et douce ». Depression in Michel Houellebecq’s fiction’, in Gillian Ni Chellaigh, Laura Jackson and Siobhán McIlvanne (eds.), Quand La Folie Parle (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), pp. 134-150
  • ‘Houellebecq et L’Idiot international : la genèse d’une voix littéraire ?’, in Bruno Viard (ed.), L’Unité de l’œuvre de Michel Houellebecq, (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2014), pp. 337-349
  • ‘Cults, crimes and coprophilia. Subversive 
communities in Richard Morgiève’s Sex Vox Dominam and Thomas Hairmont’s Le Coprophile’, in Alastair Hemmens and Russell Williams (eds.) Autour de l’extrême littéraire, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012)
Review articles and encyclopedia entries

Conferences & Lectures

  • Invited Speaker, 'Uncomfortable Proximity', Launch of a special issue of Modern and Contemporary France: ‘La France ce n'est pas Michel Houellebecq’, Goldsmiths University London,  February 14, 2019
  • Invited speaker, 'Michel Houellebecq: Uncreative Writer', Houellebecq's Cultural Transgressions conference, Institute of Modern Language Research, Senate House, University of London, September 29, 2018
  • 'Houellebecq’s « Soumission »: a contemporary « Dog Whistle » novel?’, Society of French Studies conference, University College Cork, July 2, 2018
  • Invited panel chair, Literature and Reality in the 21st Century study day (IMLR/Paris-Nanterre), University of London Institute in Paris, June 8, 2018
  • ‘Houellebecq’s « Soumission »: a contemporary « Dog Whistle » novel?’, Words That Kill conference, AUP, May 28, 2018
  • Invited speaker, 'Houellebecq et le sacrifice du soi', Séminaire Droit, histoire et littérature, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris, March 5, 2018
  • Invited speaker, 'Houellebecq et le terrorisme', Séminaire Droit, histoire et littérature, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris, February 6, 2017
  • Invited speaker, ‘Houellebecq et la crise du couple’, Conference on ‘la Fin du couple’, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris, December 2, 2016
  • Co-organizer (with Alice Craven) and panel chair, Noire is the New Noire, conference on the Gallimard Série Noire including the participation of Aurélien Masson (Gallimard) and Dominque Manotti (novelist), American University of Paris, November 5, 2016
  • Panel member and organiser, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, panel discussion featuring Édouard Louis, author and Hannah Westley, AUP Global Communications, American University of Paris, September 28, 2016,
  • ‘Je n’aurais rien à regretter’, a discussion with Louis Betty (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater), Berkeley Books, Paris, June 28, 2016
  • ‘In conversation’ with photographer John Minihan, École Normale Supérieure, Paris, Paris Beckett Festival 2016, March 18, 2016.
  • Panel member and organiser, ‘Translating Houellebecq’, panel discussion featuring Lorin Stein, The Paris Review and Nelly Kaprièlian, Les Inrockuptibles, American University of Paris, March 15, 2016.
  • ‘Une poétique de la neutralité: soumission, anomie et inertie dans la fiction de Michel Houellebecq’, International Conference, Les « voix » de Michel Houellebecq, Université de Lausanne, March 3, 2016.
  • ‘The ‘Rebranding’ of Michel Houellebecq: Persona, Authorial Presence and Narrative Voice, Society for French Studies conference, Cardiff, June 30, 2015.
  • ‘Michel Houellebecq and the roman noir – between détournement and homage’, Society for French Studies conference, Nottingham, July 2, 2013.
  • Chair and event organiser, ‘Does Paris Own Psychogeography?’, panel discussion with Andrew Hussey and novelist Will Self, University of London Institute in Paris, April 22, 2013.
  • ‘In conversation’ with novelist Aurélien Bellanger, University of London Institute in Paris, March 22, 2013
  • ‘La voix poétique et critique dans les romans de Michel Houellebecq’, L’Unité de l’œuvre de Michel Houellebecq, Université de Provence, May 4, 2012. 
  • ‘Michel Houellebecq (and) the depressive subject’, London French Postgraduate Conference 2011, IGRS London, November 14, 2011.
  • ‘Experiences of transgression in Michel Houellebecq's fiction’, Transgression(s), Université de Provence/Association des Études Françaises et Francophones d’Irlande, October 21, 2011.
  • ‘Cults, crimes and coprophilia. Subversive communities in Richard Morgiève’s Sex Vox Dominam and Thomas Hairmont’s Le Coprophile’, Autour de l’extrême littéraire, University of London Institute in Paris, June 3, 2011.
  • ‘Michel Houellebecq: celebrity, pop star, transgressor’, Interfaces conference, University of Exeter, January 29, 2011.

Research Areas

Michel Houellebecq, contemporary French fiction, detective fiction, the néo-polar, the Franco-American novel, Thierry Jonquet, Jean-Patrick Manchette, French popular culture