UCL English


Dr Dennis Duncan

Email: dennis.duncan@ucl.ac.uk
External phone: 0207 679 3121
Internal phone: 33121
Office FC237


Photograph of Dennis Duncan

Education and Experience 

Dennis Duncan studied English at Manchester University, before completing a PhD at Birkbeck in 2011. After teaching at Birkbeck, he was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, then Munby Fellow in Bibliography at Cambridge. He joined the department at UCL in 2019.

Research Interests

Dennis’s research interests include book history, translation, and avant-garde literature, particularly French groups like the Oulipo and the Collège de ’Pataphysique.

His most recent book, Index, A History of the (Penguin, 2021) was named as one of the books of the year by TIME magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, the Financial Times, and History Today.

Earlier books include Book Parts (Oxford, 2019) edited with Adam Smyth, which tells the histories of twenty-two paratexts (the parts of a book that not the main text, things like indexes, title pages, errata lists…), The Oulipo and Modern Thought (Oxford, 2019), and Babel: Adventures in Translation (Bodleian, 2018), a collection of essays to accompany an exhibition of the same name. He has also edited a collection of essays on the novelist Tom McCarthy, as well as editing and translating an edition of the Surrealist little magazine, Le Grand Jeu.


Index, A History of the (London: Penguin, 2021; New York: W. W. Norton, 2022).

Book Parts, ed. by Dennis Duncan and Adam Smyth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).

The Oulipo and Modern Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).

Babel: Adventures in Translation, by Dennis Duncan, Stephen Harrison, Katrin Kohl, and Matthew Reynolds (Oxford: Bodleian Libraries, 2018).

Tom McCarthy: Critical Essays ed. by Dennis Duncan (Canterbury: Gylphi, 2016).

Theory of the Great Game: Writings from Le Grand Jeu (London: Atlas, 2015).

Pataphysical Letters: The Correspondence of René Daumal and Julien Torma (London: Atlas, 2012).

Articles and Chapters in Books

‘Less than Paper-Thin: Pseudotranslation, Absent Fathers, and Harry Mathews’s Armenian Papers’, in Matthew Reynolds (ed.), Prismatic Translation (Oxford: Legenda, 2019), pp. 339-51.

‘The Protean Ptyx: Nonsense, Non-Translation and Word Magic in Mallarmé’s “Sonnet en -yx”’, in John Nash and Jason Harding (eds), Modernism and Non-Translation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), pp. 34-48.

‘Introductions’ and ‘Indexes’ in Book Parts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), pp. 1-10, 263-74.

‘“Debabelization”: Creating a Universal Language’ and ‘The Fragility of Languages’, in Babel: Adventures in Translation (Oxford: Bodleian Libraries, 2018), pp. 34-57, 152-65.

(as translator) Boris Vian, ‘Letters to the Collège de ’Pataphysique’, LIP: Journal of the London Institute of ’Pataphysics, 14 (2018): 36-62.

‘Acéphale’, ‘Collège de Sociologie’, ‘Oulipo’, and ‘’Pataphysics’, in Vassiliki Kolocotroni and Olga Taxidou (eds), The Edinburgh Dictionary of Modernism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), pp. 9-10, 73-74, 281-2, 284-5.

(as translator) Michel Foucault, ‘Seven Remarks on the Seventh Angel’, PMLA, 132.5 (2017): 1251-62.

‘The Compositor’s Constraint’, in G. N. Forester and M. J. Nichols (eds), The Oulipo: Festschrift (Singapore: Verbivoracious, 2017), pp. 262-65.

‘Calling All Agents’, in Tom McCarthy: Critical Essays (Canterbury: Gylphi, 2016), pp. 1-18.

‘“Joyce, un pornographe”: Ulysses, Portrait and the Sally Mara Novels of Raymond Queneau’, James Joyce Quarterly, 52.2 (2015): 115-32.

‘As If We Were Reading a Good Novel: Fiction and the Index from Richardson to Ballard’, The Indexer, 32.1 (2014): 2-11.

‘Backwards and Forwards with the Atomic Priesthood’, Alluvium, 2 (2014).

‘Calvino, Llull, Lucretius: Two Models of Literary Combinatorics’, Comparative Literature, 64.1 (2012): 93-109.

‘Form and Anxiety in Translation: Two Case Studies’, PEER English, 5 (2011): 125-37.

(as translator) Irénée-Louis Sandomir, ‘Exegesis of Mallarmé’s Ptyx’, LIP: Journal of the London Institute of ’Pataphysics, 4 (2011): 7-17.

(as translator) Alfred Jarry, ‘Filiger’, LIP: Journal of the London Institute of ’Pataphysics, 1 (2010): 41-50.

‘Urchin, Coney, Rock Badger: Genus Hopping with the Choirogrullios’, Dandelion, 1 (2010).


Translating Constrained Literature/Traduire la littérature à contraintes’, Translation Studies, 11.3 (2018).

Cheap Modernism’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 112.3 (2018): 405-8.

What is the History of the Book?’, Journal of the Printing Historical Society, 28 (2018): 78-79.

The Death of the Book’, Modernist Cultures, 13.1 (2018): 137-40.

Modern Print Artefacts’, Modernism/Modernity, 24.3 (2017): 657-60.

Beyond Descriptive Translation Studies: Investigations in Homage to Gideon Toury’, Comparative Critical Studies, 8.2 (2011): 358-61.

Translation as Stylistic Evolution’, Translation and Literature, 20.2 (2011): 266-69.