Professor John Beck

Professor in English

+44 20 7911 5000 ext 68944
309 Regent Street London W1B 2HW

I'm part of

English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies | Department

Connect with me

John Beck works on twentieth century British and American literature and art.

I studied at the University of East Anglia, UCL, and King's College, Cambridge. I was an Adrian Research Fellow at Darwin College, Cambridge before taking up a post at Newcastle University, where I taught until 2012.

At the University of Westminster, I am Director of the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture. My research is predominantly concerned with 20th century British and American literature, art and photography.

I teach American and British fiction and poetry, modernism and the avant-garde, and cultural criticism and theory. At undergraduate level I teach the modules American Literature, Other Worlds, and a special topic on American poetry which looks at 20th century poetry alongside art, photography, film and music.

I currently contribute to MA teaching on the following modules: Subjectivities in Modern and Contemporary Fictions (on the dismissal and return of questions of intentionality); Institutions and Histories (on 'difficulty' in literature, canon formation, the impact of creative writing on contemporary literature, and the emergence of 'creative non-fiction'); and Problems and Perspectives in Cultural Studies (on visual culture, Foucault, Butler, Zizek, and others).

Most of my work deals variously with places and politics. I have written on poetry, fiction, art, photography, and architecture. In Writing the Radical Center (2001), William Carlos Williams's modernist place-making is read as an unstable fusion of progressive liberalism and avant-garde constructivism. Dirty Wars (2009) approaches the permanent militarisation of the Western US after Pearl Harbour through analysis of fictional and non-fictional responses to the military-industrial de- and reformation of purloined Western landscapes.

Current work

My current research falls into two main areas: landscape in photography and art since the 1960s, and California from Nixon to Reagan. The first of these projects deals with the dismantling and reconstruction of the conventions of landscape representation among conceptual and post-conceptual artists and critical landscape photographers; it looks at the ways in which photography approaches questions of visibility and invisibility in relation to matters pertaining to, for example, security, conflict, and environmental despoliation; and the ways generic categories such as documentary and abstraction are addressed through the use of new imaging technologies. The second project, concerned with California from the 1960s through the 1980s, addresses the unravelling of the post-war consensus and the rise of neoliberalism through readings of a range of fictional and non-fictional literature and film.

I am also involved in a number of collaborative research projects. These include an analysis of the continuities of the Cold War into the present, in terms of, for example, the pervasiveness of systems thinking and the militarisation of everyday life; an investigation of the catastrophic imaginary in relation to perceived global threats such as environmental collapse or the purported impending technological singularity; and an examination of the role of the local art school in British cultural life during the post-war period.

Research student supervision and external examining

I have supervised 12 PhDs to completion and have served as external examiner of PhDs at a number of universities, including Cambridge, Manchester, and Nottingham. I am currently external examiner for the MA in Global Media and Culture at Keele University and have served as external examiner for undergraduate literature programmes at the University of East Anglia and the University of Kent.

2016

Cold War Legacies: Systems, Theory, Aesthetics (2016)
Beck, J. and Bishop, R.
Cold War Legacies: Systems, Theory, Aesthetics Edinburgh Edinburgh University Press

2014

The Art School and the Culture Shed (2014)
Beck, J. and Cornford, M.
The Art School and the Culture Shed Kingston upon Thames Centre for Useless Splendour

2009

Dirty wars: landscape, power, and waste in Western American literature (2009)
Beck, J.
Dirty wars: landscape, power, and waste in Western American literature Lincoln University of Nebraska Press

2005

American visual cultures (2005)
Holloway, D. and Beck, J. (ed.)
American visual cultures London Continuum

2001

Writing the radical center: William Carlos Williams, John Dewey, and American cultural politics (2001)
Beck, J.
Writing the radical center: William Carlos Williams, John Dewey, and American cultural politics Albany State University of New York Press

2016

Introduction: The Long Cold War (2016)
Beck, J. and Bishop, R.
Introduction: The Long Cold War in: Beck, J. and Bishop, R. (ed.) Cold War Legacies: Systems, Theory, Aesthetics Edinburgh Edinburgh University Press pp. 35-49
Overt Research (2016)
White, N. and Beck, J.
Overt Research in: Beck, J. and Bishop, R. (ed.) Cold War Legacies: Systems, Theory, Aesthetics Edinburgh Edinburgh University Press pp. 252-272
A Military Definition of Reality: Researching Literature and Militarization (2016)
Beck, J.
A Military Definition of Reality: Researching Literature and Militarization in: The Routledge Companion to Military Research Methods Routledge pp. 84-94

2013

Strangers to the stars: abstraction, aereality, aspect perception (2013)
Beck, J.
Strangers to the stars: abstraction, aereality, aspect perception in: Armitage, J. and Bishop, R. (ed.) Virilio and visual culture Edinburgh Edinburgh University Press pp. 46-68
Beyond the darkness of the just lived moment (2013)
Beck, J.
Beyond the darkness of the just lived moment in: Makhoul, B. (ed.) Palestinian video art: constellation of the moving image Jerusalem Al Hoash pp. 156-169
Between the castle and the village (2013)
Beck, J.
Between the castle and the village in: Bishop, R. and Hon, G. (ed.) Bashir Makhoul, Aissa Deebi: otherwise occupied Jerusalem Al Hoash pp. 150-165

2011

The place of catastrophe: Clarence King, Mike Davis and the politics of contingency (2011)
Beck, J.
The place of catastrophe: Clarence King, Mike Davis and the politics of contingency in: Wragg, D.A. and Heffernan, N. (ed.) Culture, environment and eco-politics Newcastle Upon Tyne Cambridge Scholars pp. 84-110

2009

Et in Arizona ego: Baudrillard on the Planet of the Apes (2009)
Beck, J.
Et in Arizona ego: Baudrillard on the Planet of the Apes in: Bishop, R. (ed.) Baudrillard now: current perspectives in Baudrillard studies Cambridge Polity pp. 100-115

2005

Zapruder, Warhol, and the accident of images (2005)
Beck, J.
Zapruder, Warhol, and the accident of images in: Holloway, D. and Beck, J. (ed.) American visual cultures London Continuum pp. 183-189

2004

Reading room: erosion and sedimentation in Sebald's Suffolk (2004)
Beck, J.
Reading room: erosion and sedimentation in Sebald's Suffolk in: Long, J.J. and Whitehead, A. (ed.) W.G. Sebald: a critical companion Edinburgh Edinburgh University Press pp. 75-88

2000

‘A certain but fugitive testimony': witnessing the light of time in Cormac McCarthy's Southwestern fiction (2000)
Beck, J.
‘A certain but fugitive testimony': witnessing the light of time in Cormac McCarthy's Southwestern fiction in: Wallach, R. (ed.) Myth, legend, dust: critical responses to Cormac McCarthy Manchester Manchester University Press pp. 209-216

1999

Buckminster Fuller and the politics of shelter (1999)
Beck, J.
Buckminster Fuller and the politics of shelter in: Hughes, J. and Sadler, S. (ed.) Non-plan: essays on freedom, participation and change in modern architecture and urbanism Oxford Architectural Press pp. 116-125
The Future: RAND, Brand and Dangerous to Know ()
Beck, J. The Future: RAND, Brand and Dangerous to Know in: Beck, J. and Bishop, R. (ed.) Cold War Legacies: Systems, Theory, Aesthetics Edinburgh pp. 35-49

2016

Introduction: Photography and Abstraction (2016)
Beck, J. and Cunningham, D.I.
Introduction: Photography and Abstraction Photographies 9 (2) 129-133 1754-0763
High Formalism: The aerial view and the colour field (2016)
Beck, J.
High Formalism: The aerial view and the colour field Photographies 9 (2) 187-201 1754-0763

2014

The purloined landscape: photography and power in the American West (2014)
Beck, J.
The purloined landscape: photography and power in the American West Tate Papers 21 1753-9854
The Call of the Anthropocene (2014)
Beck, J.
The Call of the Anthropocene Cultural Politics 10 (3) 404-414
Postcatastrophic utopias (2014)
Beck, J. and Dorrian, M.
Postcatastrophic utopias Cultural Politics 10 (2) 132-150 1743-2197

2012

The art school in ruins (2012)
Beck, J. and Cornford, M.
The art school in ruins Journal of Visual Culture 11 (1) 58-83 1470-4129
In and out of the box: Bashir Makhoul’s Forbidden City (2012)
Beck, J.
In and out of the box: Bashir Makhoul’s Forbidden City Theory, Culture and Society 29 (7-8) 341-357 0263-2764

2011

Signs of the sky, signs of the times: photography as double agent (2011)
Beck, J.
Signs of the sky, signs of the times: photography as double agent Theory, Culture and Society 28 (7-8) 123-139 0263-2764
Concrete ambivalence: inside the bunker complex (2011)
Beck, J.
Concrete ambivalence: inside the bunker complex Cultural Politics 7 (1) 79-102 1743-2197

2007

Velocities of power (2007)
Beck, J. and Crosthwaite, P.
Velocities of power Cultural Politics 3 (1) 23-34 1743-2197
Resistance becomes ballistic: Vanishing Point and the end of the road (2007)
Beck, J.
Resistance becomes ballistic: Vanishing Point and the end of the road Cultural Politics 3 (1) 35-50 1743-2197

2001

Without form and void: the American desert as trope and terrain (2001)
Beck, J.
Without form and void: the American desert as trope and terrain Nepantla: views from South 2 (1) 63-83 1527-0858

2000

An over-illuminated world: Reyner Banham and art history in the wilderness (2000)
Beck, J.
An over-illuminated world: Reyner Banham and art history in the wilderness Everything 3 26-33 1361-7699
Blown away: wars visible and invisible in Richard Misrach’s Desert Cantos (2000)
Beck, J.
Blown away: wars visible and invisible in Richard Misrach’s Desert Cantos European Journal of American Culture 19 (3) 156-166 1466-0407

Browse

Browse our directory to find staff profiles containing contact information, biography and list of publications.

Related links

Research strategy
Our University

Discover how the University of Westminster is organised and who makes the University tick.