mckay-r-profileMy research focuses on the representation of animals and the ethics of human-animal relations in literature, film and culture since 1945. My first degree was in English Language and Literature at the University of Glasgow. I then came to Sheffield to study for an MA in Narrative and completed a PhD here in 2004. I have taught in the School of English since then.

My research analyses the way novelists and film-makers have responded to the unjust relations between the species as aesthetic problems as well as political ones. I am currently working on two books. The first of these is called Animal Form: Contemporary Fiction and the Politics of Species. It focuses on the period from 1970 to the present and especially on the work of Margaret Atwood, J.M. Coetzee, Michel Faber, Deborah Levy and Alice Walker. In the other project I look at how the literature, film and culture of the post-war period, complicates and exceeds the understanding of animals’ value in public animal welfare humanitarianism. I am studying figures such as James Agee, Arthur Miller, John Huston, Romain Gary, Peter Viertel, Patricia Highsmith, Brigid Brophy, Walker Hamilton and others.

More broadly, I am interested in the representations of animals in culture and am active in the research field of animal studies. In 2006 my co-written book (with the Animal Studies Group) Killing Animals was published by University of Illinois Press. In 2000 I co-organised Millennial Animals: Theorising and Understanding the Importance of Animals, a conference here at Sheffield that was cited (by Cary Wolfe in PMLA) as groundbreaking in the field. I have co-curated exhibitions of contemporary art addressing animal issues and I also co-organised the Reading Animals conference at Sheffield in 2014.

I am the series co-editor of Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature, Associate Editor (Literature) for Society and Animals (Brill). I have contributed review essays to Society and Animals, Modern Fiction Studies, and Safundi and acted as an editorial reviewer for Humanimalia, Parallax, Mosaic, PMLA, Society and Animals, Anthem Press and Columbia University Press.

I am also a founding member of the Sheffield Animals Research Colloquium.

Publications

  • Against Value in The Arts and Education, ed. by Sam Ladkin, Robert McKay and Emile Bojesen (London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 2016)
  • The Animal Studies Group, Killing Animals (Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2006)
  • ‘An important new book’, Donna Haraway, When Species Meet (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2007)
  • ‘Invaluable Elephants, or The Against-Value of Critique (for Animals)’, in Against Value in The Arts and Education, ed. by Sam Ladkin, Robert McKay and Emile Bojesen (London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 2016).
  • ‘James Agee’s ‘A Mother’s Tale’ and the Biopolitics of Animal Life and Death in Post-war America’ in Against Life, ed. Alastair Hunt and Stephanie Youngbood (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2014) [6000 words].
  • ‘Animals, Celebrity and Moral Agency in Postwar Cinema: Marilyn Monroe, Velma Johnston, Arthur Miller and John Huston’s The Misfits’, in Animals and the Moving Image, ed. by Michael Lawrence and Laura McMahon (London: BFI/Palgrave, 2015)