Doctor Ben Etherington

Doctor Ben Etherington

Senior Research Lectureship-Literature,
Arts (sohca)


Ben Etherington is a Senior Lecturer in postcolonial and world literary studies in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and a member of the Writing and Society Research Centre. He holds honours in Musicology and English from the University of Western Australia and an MPhil and PhD in English from the University of Cambridge. He is the president of the Australian Association for Carribean Studies (2019-21) and the elected academic representative on the University's Board of Trustees (2016-21). In 2018-19, he was an Edward W. Said Fellow at the Heyman Center, Columbia University. Recent publications include Literary Primitivism (Stanford UP, 2018), The Cambridge Companion to World Literature (co-edited with Jarad Zimbler, Cambridge UP, 2018), and Historical Poetics and the Problem of Exemplarity (co-edited with Sean Pryor, 2019, special issue of Critical Quarterly). His current project is on the development of the poetics of anglophone Caribbean creole poetry in the period between the abolition of slavery and decolonisation.

This information has been contributed by Doctor Etherington.


  • PhD University of Cambridge (UK)
  • MPh Eng University of Cambridge (UK)


  • Edward W. Said Fellowship, Heyman Center, Columbia University 2018-05-01
  • Australian Heads of University English Prize for Literary Scholarship 2018-12-26
  • Australian Research Council Discovery Project (DP 170101002) with Alexis Wright, Anthony Uhlmann, Nicholas Jose, Gail Jones, J. M. Coetzee 2017-01-02
  • SoHCA Researcher of the Year Award (shared with Alison Moore) 2019-11-01

Organisational Unit (School / Division)

  • Arts (sohca)


  • Board of Trustees
  • SoHCA
  • Sydney Review of Books
  • Australian Association for Caribbean Studies


Phone: (02) 9685 9373
Location: EQ.1.39

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  • Etherington, B. (2018), 'Literary Primitivism', : Stanford University Press 9781503602366.
  • Etherington, B. and Zimbler, J. (2018), 'The Cambridge Companion to World Literature', : Cambridge University Press 9781108471374.

Chapters in Books

  • Etherington, B. (2020), 'Worlds, world-making, and Southern horizons', The Cambridge Companion to J. M. Coetze, Cambridge University Press 9781108475341.
  • Etherington, B. and Zimbler, J. (2018), 'Introduction', The Cambridge Companion to World Literature, Cambridge University Press 9781108471374.
  • Etherington, B. (2018), 'Scales, systems, and meridians', The Cambridge Companion to World Literature, U.K. 9781108457842.
  • Etherington, B. (2016), 'How to read a big book : the critical reception of Hannah Kent's Burial Rites in the context of contemporary trade book marketing', The Return of Print?: Contemporary Australian Publishing, Monash University Publishing 9781925495294.
  • Etherington, B. (2007), 'Said, Grainger and the Ethics of Polyphony', Edward Said: The Legacy of a Public Intellectual, Melbourne University Press 9780522853568.

Journal Articles

  • Etherington, B. and Pryor, S. (2019), 'Historical poetics and the problem of exemplarity', Critical Quarterly, vol 61, no 1 , pp 3 - 17.
  • Etherington, B. (2019), 'Against network thinking', Affirmations: of the modern, vol 6, no 1 , pp 30 - 44.
  • Etherington, B. (2019), 'Decolonizing Dialectics by George Ciccariello-Maher (review)', Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, vol 20, no 3 .
  • Etherington, B. (2017), 'Deconstructing decolonisation : Victor Questel's Collected Poems', Cordite Poetry Review, vol 81 .
  • Etherington, B. (2017), 'Ben Etherington reviews Borrowed Light', Critical Inquiry, vol 43, no 4 , pp 897 - 899.
  • Etherington, B. (2016), 'An answer to the question : what is decolonization? : Frantz Fanon's The wretched of the earth and Jean-Paul Sartre's Critique of dialectical reason', Modern Intellectual History, .
  • Etherington, B. (2016), 'An interview with Ali Cobby Eckermann', Wasafiri, vol 31, no 2 , pp 13 - 17.
  • Etherington, B. (2016), 'Unsettled poetics : contemporary Australian and South African poetry', Wasafiri, vol 31, no 2 , pp 1 - 4.
  • Etherington, B. (2015), 'On scanning Louise Bennett seriously', Journal of West Indian Literature, vol 23, no 1-2 , pp 19 - 34.
  • Etherington, B. and Zimbler, J. (2014), 'Field, material, technique : on renewing postcolonial literary criticism', Journal of Commonwealth Literature, vol 49, no 3 , pp 279 - 297.
  • Zimbler, J., Etherington, B. and Bower, R. (2014), 'Crafts of world literature : field, material and translation', Journal of Commonwealth Literature, vol 49, no 3 , pp 273 - 278.
  • Etherington, B. (2013), 'Cellular scansion : creolization as poetic practice in Brathwaite's Rights of passage', Thinking Verse, vol 3 , pp 188 - 210.
  • Etherington, B. (2012), 'What is materialism's material? : thoughts toward (actually against) a materialism for "world literature"', Journal of Postcolonial Writing, vol 48, no 5 , pp 539 - 551.
  • Etherington, B. (2010), 'Sound Gazes? (Response to William Fitzgerald)', Journal of the Royal Musical Association, vol 135, no sp1 , pp 39 - 43.
  • Etherington, B. (2010), 'Deafness and insight : on the seductions of the music/language analogy', Paragraph, vol 33, no 1 , pp 20 - 36.
  • Etherington, B. (2007), 'Instrumentalising Musical Ethics: Edward Said and West-Eastern Divan Orchestra', Australian Music Research, vol 9 , pp 121 - 129.

The central concern of Ben’s research is with literature and decolonization. His current project traces the emergence of a creole poetics in the Anglophone Caribbean in the period between the abolition of slavery and political independence. His monograph Literary Primitivism argues that primitivism arose in reaction to the apotheosis of European imperialism and that the most intensively primitivist works were produced by colonized subjects. An online symposium on the book, convened by Emily Taylor, can be found here. With Alberto Toscano, Ben convened a symposium on primitivism at Goldsmiths in 2019 and is working with Samuel Spinner on a follow up at Johns Hopkins in 2021.

With Jarad Zimbler, Ben has conducted an ongoing research collaboration, Crafts of World Literature. This has included conferences at the University of Oxford, the Writing and Society Research Centre, and the University Cape Town, journal issues with the Journal of Commonwealth Literature and Wasafiri, and The Cambridge Companion to World Literature. In his contributions, Ben has developed a non-positivist idea of world literature as a "speculative literary totality" and has explored the idea of "literary meridians" to think about the affinities between unconnected and localized literary practices.

A related project is Other Worlds, for which he collaborated with J. M. Coetzee, Gail Jones, Nicholas Jose, Anthony Uhlmann, and Alexis Wright to explore world literature from the vantage of practicing writers. With Wright, Ben produced Nothing but the Truth (2019) for ABC RN on the life of the Gangalidda leader, Clarence Walden.

Ben's work on creole poetics explores the paradigm of "historical poetics". This has led to collaborations with Sean Pryor including a conference on historical poetics and a special issue with Critical Quarterly.

Ben also writes occasional essays on Australian literary criticism for the Sydney Review of Books.

Areas of expertise and interest: primitivism, Caribbean poetry and poetics, literature and decolonization, historical poetics, materialist aesthetics, intellectual history of decolonization, literature and music, Australian literary criticism.

This information has been contributed by Doctor Etherington.

Current Projects

Title: Other Worlds: Forms of World Literature
  • Australian Research Council (ACRG)
Western Researchers: Anthony Uhlmann, Alexis Wright, Ben Etherington and Gail Jones
Years: 2017-03-15 - 2021-08-31
ID: P00023265


Current Supervision

Thesis Title: Performance Writing: Reinventing Poetics before Text
Field of Research:
Thesis Title: Newos Kanmn: Towards a Poetics of Prehistoric Fiction
Field of Research:
Thesis Title: Genre Collisions, Culture Collisions: A Study of Fusions between Sub-Saharan African and Western Popular Music
Field of Research:
Thesis Title: 'No Island is a Man' and 'Exploring Post-Human Particularities in "World Literature" through an Australian Lens'
Field of Research:
Field of Research:

Previous Supervision

Thesis Title: The Content of the Avant-Garde: Subjectivity, Community, Revolution
Field of Research: Literature; Creative Arts Not Elsewhere Classified; Other Society And Culture
Thesis Title: Literary Recognition: Representation of Islam and Muslims in Post 9/11 Novels
Field of Research: Other Society And Culture


Title: The Living and the Undead
Description: Critic Watch article on critical response to the deaths of Les Murray and Mudrooroo for Sydney Review of Books
Title: Rewilding - The Philosopher's Zone
Description: Interview with ABC Radio National on contemporary primitivism
Title: Marlon James and the challenge of the creole narrator
Description: Article on Marlon James winning Booker Prize for Sydney Review of Books
Title: This Little University Went to the Market
Description: Essay on the history of HECS for Sydney Review of Books
Title: Universities and the Block
Description: Review essay on Andrew McGettigan, The Great University Gamble for Sydney Review of Books
Title: Cravenhos Universe
Description: Critic Watch article on the career of Peter Craven for Sydney Review of Books
Title: The Poet Tasters
Description: Critic Watch article on poetry reviewing for Sydney Review of Books
Title: Road to Omission
Description: Critic Watch article on critical response to Anthony Macris for Sydney Review of Books
Title: The Real Deal
Description: Critic Watch article on critical response to Hannah Kent for Sydney Review of Books
Title: The Brain Feign
Description: Critic Watch article on critical response to Anna Funder for Sydney Review of Books
Title: Nothing but the Truth
Description: Documentary on Gangalidda elder Clarence Walden for Awaye!, ABC Radio National
Title: Roast or Fry? Dancehall in the Yards of Kingston
Description: Feature on Jamaican Dancehall for Earshot, ABC Radio National
Title: Lachlan Skipworth: Floating Time
Description: Article on composer Lachlan Skipworth for Limelight Magazine
Title: It was like a library being burned to the ground, but these oral histories are bringing it back
Description: Feature article and video on Clarence Walden for ABC News
Title: The New Primitives
Description: Essay for Los Angeles Review of Books on contemporary primitivism

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