Skip to main content

Dr Marc Botha

Associate Professor

Associate Professor in the Department of English Studies
Associate Professor, Department of English Studies, Durham University in the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience




With a bakcground in literary studies and music, I taught and performed widely as a classical saxophonist in South Africa, before turning my attention more fully to the field of literary and cultural theory. I complete and MA at the University of Pretoria, and first came to Durham in 2006 as a  Doctoral Fellow. I completed my doctorate in Modernism and Literary Theory in 2011, and was appointed a Lecturer in English at the University of Pretoria in 2012. I was subsequently seconded later in the same year as a research associate on the Leverhulme Trust Tipping Points project hosted by Durham’s Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience.

I was appointed to my current position in the Department of English Studies in 2016. Betweem 2017 and 2020 I was co-director of Durham’s Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience. During this time I also co-ordinated a research initiative on risk and the humanities within the Matiriki Network of Universities that culminated in several international conferences and workshops. Since 2016 I have been a Research Associate at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.



My research is often interdisciplinary and comparative, and interrogates the intersection of critical theory, ethics and aesthetics, and the relationship between literature, the visual arts and music. In terms of period and area focus, I principally (although not exclusively) draw on modern and contemporary American literature, but with a strong emphasis on the ways that aesthetic ideas and works travel.

My work generally takes shape around particular concepts – minimum, event, austerity, fragility, divination, object, and encounter for example – and the ways these concepts travel between histories, places, cultures, political imaginaries and media. My approach is generally eclectic, but I have particularly strong affinities with deconstruction, object-oriented thought, theories of the event (especially Badiou), and queer theory. 

These interests feed into ongoing work in three principal and interrelated areas of research: fragility, risk and vulnerability; divination, futurity and the politics of prediction/forecasting; and queer poetics.

My earlier work on minimalism centred on developing a general theory applicable to literature, music and the visual arts, and which is able to map the relation of minimalism to broader questions of realism, multiplicity, phenomenology, and object-oriented ontology. My work traces the way that minimalism, though rooted in mid-20th century America, opens up ways of mapping aesthetic extremes at different times and places. My current and future work in the area addresses concrete poetry, short fiction, and the broader field of minimalism and the sacred.

My recent work has been centred on questions of fragility (and related concepts of risk and vulnerability). This currently has two branches. The first, Sensing the Future, addresses the remerkable tetralogy of US poet, Rob Halpern, and his exploration of the militarized subjects/objects the emerge from US exceptionalism, tracing the increasingly prevalent conditions under which the often feitshized and/or abjected body-at-risk becomes a means a means of divining the catastrophic consequences of a normalized necropolitical future, and the ways that the visceral insistence of queer desire is able to recuperate potentiality and hope in dire conditions.    

The second, Appearing in Disappearing: On the Politics and Poetics of Fragility, poses questions about the ways in which the contingency of site-specificity intensifies problems of how to locate the aesthetic event and its value (spatially, historically, politically, ontologically) in an eclectic range of works: from Ian Hamilton Finlay's celebrated poetry garden, Little Sparta, at Dunsyre in Scotland; through the colonial-era Bleek and Lloyd archive in Cape Town, the only remaining record of the now-extinct /Xam language and people and its fraught adaptation in the work of poets Stephen Watson and Antjie Krog; to the singular beauty of the medieval icons of the remote Svaneti region of Georgia and the way they interogate both the fragile politics and poetics of sacred space (hierotopia) in the contemporary world. 



I convene a special topic module, Contemporary Short Fiction: Towards an Intersectional Writing of the Present, and teach on a range of modules including the Theory and Practice of LIterary Criticism, American Fiction, Post-War Fiction and Poetry, and Postcolonial and World Literature. 



My research in these and related fields is represented in a monograph, A Theory of Minimalism (Bloomsbury, 2017), a special issue of English Academy Review addressing “Fragile Futures” (Routledge, 2014), and a large-scaled co-edited collection of essays on literary and cultural theory (with Patricia Waugh), Future Theory: A Handbook to Critical Concepts (Bloomsbury, 2021). I have published a number of chapters in volumes including on microfiction in The Cambridge Companion to the English Short Story (CUP, 2016), on minimalism and temporality in Time: Limits and Constraints (Brill, 2010), and on ecological aesthetics and rock art in Weeds and Viruses: Ecopolitics and the Demands of Theory (WVT Trier, 2015) and have articles published or forthcoming in journals including American Literary History, English Academy Review, Textual Practice, Oxford Literary Review, Postmodern Culture, and Parallax.

Research interests

  • Literary and Cultural Theory
  • Modern and Postmodern American Literature and Culture
  • Postcolonial Literature
  • Interdisciplinary approaches to literary study
  • Aesthetics
  • Minimalism
  • Queer theory
  • Risk, Vulnerability, Fragility, Forecasting


Authored book

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Supervision students