Zhao Ng

My research is centred on literature in the twentieth century, and is directed in relation to themes in religion, philosophy, and psychoanalysis.

My interest in the aesthetic and existential responses to suffering and evil in secular modernity has led to my first book on melancholy and theodicy in the works of the American writer and artist, Djuna Barnes. In unfolding a theoretical analysis of the structures of literary and religious worlds, this book also resituates questions of genre (comedy/tragedy) and anthropological embodiment (laughing/crying; queerness and hybridity) in the field of ontology.

My current work continues to examine twentieth-century literature and art in the context of the waning of traditional religious worlds. Dark Gods: Modernism in a Time of Political Religions reconsiders previous scholarly narratives on modernism, secularisation, and religious experience by focusing on the rise of Fascism and Communism in the interwar period. It considers how writers and artists of the period sought to conceptualise political world-making using religious concepts, and covers works by Wyndham Lewis, Jacob Epstein, Rebecca West, Louis Aragon, Nancy Cunard, and Mina Loy.

Selected Publications

  • Djuna Barnes and Theology: Melancholy, Body, Theodicy. Bloomsbury Academic: New Directions in Religion and Literature (Forthcoming; January 2022)
  • “Songs of Love and Loss: Mina Loy’s Lyric Theodicy,” Journal of Religion & Literature 55.1 (Forthcoming; 2023)
  • “Wyndham Lewis’s Mythic Method: From Transcendental Aesthetic to Transcendental Causation,” English Literary History 88.4 (Forthcoming; Winter 2021)
  • “Mad Love: Surrealism and Soteriological Desire,” Literature and Theology 34.3 (September 2020)
  • “Of Beasts Blond and Damned: Fascist and Hysterical Bodies and Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood,” Twentieth-Century Literature 66.1 (March 2020). Special Issue: Writing Bodily Resistance in World War II Literature