Dr Robert McKay

Senior Lecturer in English Literature


Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA


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 focuses on the representation of animals and the ethics of human-animal relations in literature, film and culture since 1945.


My research analyses the way novelists, film-makers and other thinkers have responded to unjust relations between humans and other animal species as aesthetic problems as well as political and ethical ones.

More broadly, I am interested in any aspect of the understanding of animals, animality and human-animal relations in culture and am active in the research field of interdisciplinary animal studies. In particular, I am co-Director of the Sheffield Animal Studies Research Centre, a network of University of Sheffield researchers, visiting, honourary and postdoctoral fellows, and graduate and undergraduate students. ShARC hosts a range of seminars, conferences and other events.


I am currently working on two books. The first of these is called Animal Form. 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, Guy Endore, Arthur Miller, John Huston, Romain Gary, Peter Viertel, Patricia Highsmith, Brigid Brophy, Walker Hamilton and others.

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 AnimalsModern Fiction Studies, and Safundi and acted as an editorial reviewer for Humanimalia, Australian Literary Studies, Parallax, Mosaic, PMLA, Society and Animals, Anthem Press and Columbia University Press.


My main teaching interests span the modern and contemporary periods, in film, and in introducing students to literature and theory. I have developed a number of modules based on my research:

  • Theory, Animals and the Environment
  • Animals Writes: Beasts and Humans in 20th Century Literature
  • Interpret the Brutes: The Animal in Postcolonial Fiction and the Writings of Race
  • No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of this Module.

Students on the latter have collaborated with others from several other universities to produce

ZooScope: The Animals in Film Archive.

In 2013 with Matthew Holman I won the inaugural Higher Education Academy Staff-Student Partnership Award and in 2008 I won a University of Sheffield Senate Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. I was also the Arts Faculty adviser on and co-writer of The Academic Skills Hub, an internet encyclopaedia and teaching resource for generic academic skills, which has been integrated into the University of Sheffield's 301 Study Skills tutorials.


I am interested in supervising research on any aspect of the representation of animals and human-animal relations in literature, film, culture and theory. I am especially interested in projects that focus on the period from around 1930 to the present but welcome expressions of interest about any animal studies / critical animal studies project. I have particular expertise in food ethics and in political and moral thought about animals more broadly as these issues play out in cultural texts.

Recent and current supervision includes doctoral projects on:

  • Humans, animals and machines in postwar/Cold War literature and culture
  • Loss and the nonhuman in contemporary literature
  • Horsepower: Animals in Automotive Culture 1895-1935
  • Meat consumption and the idea of animal resources in literature and culture since 1830
  • Animals in contemporary Canadian literature
  • The representation of animals in scientific settings in contemporary literature
  • 'Animals and Empathy in Representations of the Slaughterhhouse'
  • Comparing literary representations of grief in the context of domestic animal loss and species extinction
  • Animals and the work of Francois Laruelle
  • Contemporary literary, artistic and performative responses to the question of the animal (1960 to the present)
  • Cold War biopolitics and a critique of the anthropocene
  • Animality in poetry (creative writing PhD)


  • 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)
    'The most compelling way to read this book is as a model for collaboration in the study of animal life—and here more specifically death—across the humanities and social sciences. This is not to downplay the extraordinary earlier efforts of this group's members in having demonstrated the relevance of studying animals within each of their respective disciplines (anthropology, art history, geography, history, literary studies, and philosophy), but rather to affirm how their work together in this project makes a compelling case for the development of animal studies "as an autonomous and substantive field" in its own right'. Susan McHugh, Configurations, 14.1-2 (2006)
Edited collections
  • Wolves, Werewolves and the Gothic, ed. by Robert McKay and John Miller (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2017)
  • Against Value in The Arts and Education, ed. by Sam Ladkin, Robert McKay and Emile Bojesen (London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 2016)
Journal special issues
  • Literary Animals Look, Antennae 24 (2013), co-edited with Susan McHugh
  • Society and Animals, 20.2 (2012) co-edited with four others
Articles, essays, chapters, etc
  • 'Representation', in Critical Terms for Animal Studies, ed. by Lori Gruen (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2018)
  • 'A Vegan Form of Life' in Thinking Veganism in Literature and Culture, ed. by Emelia Quinn and Ben Westwood (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2018), pp. 249-72
  • 'Brigid Brophy's Pro-Animal Forms’, Contemporary Women's Writing, 2017 https://doi.org/10.1093/cww/vpx024
  • 'A Vegetarian Diet for the Were-wolf Hunger of Capital: Guy Endore's The Werewolf of Paris', in Wolves, Werewolves and the Gothic, ed. by Robert McKay and John Miller (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2017), pp. 177-202
  • '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, 2015), pp. 143-159.
  • '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), pp. 171-86
  • 'Justin Cartwright’, in British Writers XIX, ed. by Jay Parini (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2012), pp. 37-54
  • 'Metafiction, Vegetarianism and the Literary Performance of Animal Ethics in J. M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals', Safundi, 11.1 (2010), 67-86
  • 'Animal Ethics and Literary Criticism', Minnesota Review, 73-74 (2010), 263-68
  • 'A Dangerous Border', Antennae, 8.2 (2008), 60-64
  • 'BSE, Hysteria and the Representation of Animal Death: Deborah Levy's Diary of a Steak' in Killing Animals by The Animal Studies Group (Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2006) 145-69
  • 'Identifying with the Animals: Language, Subjectivity and Animal Politics in Atwood’s Surfacing' in Figuring Animals, ed. by Catherine Rainwater and Mary Pollock (New York: Palgrave, 2005), pp. 207-27
  • 'Getting Close to Animals with Alice Walker’s The Temple of My Familiar', Society and Animals, 9:3 (2001), 253-72
Exhibitions and artworks
  • An Animal Space, University of Sheffield, July/August 2013. Exhibition of works made with Chloë Brown.
  • The Animal Gaze Returned, Sheffield Institute of the Arts, July/August 2013, co-curated with Rosemarie McGoldrick and Chloë Brown
  • The Animal Gaze, Sheffield Institute of the Arts, April 2010, co-curated with Rosemarie McGoldrick and Chloë Brown
Other writing
  • 'Introduction', in The Animal Gaze: 14 line Poems by 14 Sheffield Poets and the Art that Inspired Them (Sheffield: Poetry Business, 2014)
  • 'What Kind of Literary Animal Studies Do We Want, or Need?', Modern Fiction Studies, 60.2 (2014), 636-44
  • 'Guest Editors’ Introduction: Being and Seeing Literary Animals', Antennae, 24 (2013), 4-6. (co-written Susan McHugh)
  • 'An Illustrated Theriography', Antennae, 24 (2013), 8-28
  • 'Guest Editors’ Introduction: The Animals and Society Fellowship: Catalyzing Work in Human-Animal Studies', Society and Animals, 20 (2012), 117-22. (co-written with 4 others)
  • 'Animals, Ethics and Literary Criticism', The Minnesota Review, 73-74 (2010), 263-68