Thom Dancer

Associate Professor; Graduate Faculty; Undergraduate Instructor
Jackman Humanities Building, Room 713, 170 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5R 2M8


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • 20th and 21st century British and Anglophone literature
  • The contemporary novel
  • The history of literary criticism
  • Literary theory and research methods
  • Philosophy of science
  • Philosophy and literature
  • Pragmatism (philosophy)
  • Speculative philosophy
  • Genre including the essay, novels, and comics.


Thom Dancer received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 2011. Before joining the faculty at the University of Toronto in 2015, he worked at Ohio University as an assistant professor of 20th century British literature from 2012-15. He loves introductory level literature courses on science fiction and literature, time travel narratives, and the novel. He also teaches contemporary British fiction and the introduction to British literature (second half) course. His graduate courses have focused on the novel, novel theory, realism, the anthropocene, and the history of literary criticism. He organizes the Contemporary Literature Research Group (CLRG) along with Avery Slater.

Thom's primary research field in 20th and 21st century fiction and the history of literary criticism and theory. In more general terms, he is interested in the novel (from the 18th century to present) and aesthetics (issues of value, judgement, and taste). He has recently written articles on Relatability in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go for Modern Fiction Studies. He contributed to the Cambridge Companion to Ian McEwan. With Chris Holmes (Ithaca), he has edited a special issue on "The Novel at its Limits" for the journal Critique.

His book, Critical Modesty in Contemporary Fiction is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in September 2021. The book seeks to understand why a growing number of contemporary novelists have appeared to turn to small, incremental, partial, and minor solutions in the face of massive challenges posed by the Anthropocene. Instead of seeing this as a surrender or capitulation, this book argues that such an approach reflects a new critical temperament of modesty that seeks to locate the fight for freedom and human dignity within the limited and compromised conditions in which we find ourselves.


(Forthcoming) Critical Modesty in Contemporary Fiction (Oxford University Press)

2021 "Being Kathy H: Relatability in Never Let Me Go" MFS (Spring 2021)

2019 "Limited Modernism" in The Cambridge Companion to Ian McEwan. ed. Dominic Head. Cambridge: Cambridge UP

2019 Review of Joseph North's Literary Criticism: A Polemical History. Comparative Literature 71(1), 117-121.

2013 "Literary History of the Contemporary." Review of Modernist Futures: Innovation and Inheritance in the Contemporary Novel by David James, Contemporary Literature 54.3 (Fall 2013): 634-642.

2012 "Literary Merit, Authenticity, and the Contemporary Canon." Review of Post-War British Women Novelists and the Canon by Nick Turner, NOVEL 45.4 (Winter 2012): 506-511.

2012 "Toward a Modest Criticism: Ian McEwan's Saturday." Special issue on "The Contemporary Novel: Imagining the Twenty-First Century" edited by Timothy Bewes. NOVEL 45.2 (Summer 2012): 202-220.

2011 "Between Belief and Understanding: J.M. Coetzee and the Present of Reading." minnesota review 77 (November 2011): 133-142.