Dr Paul Smethurst

Tel: (852) 3917 2766
E-mail: paulsmet@hku.hk
Office: Room 743, 7/F, Run Run Shaw Tower (Building B, Arts), Centennial Campus

{Profile} {Publications}


Paul Smethurst received his PhD in postmodernism and theories of space and place from Birkbeck College, London in 1996. Prior to attaining his PhD, he was technical project leader of Geographical Information Systems for Shell Exploration (1985-1991), and before this, he developed process control software for steel plants, and communications systems for radar installations.

Since embarking on an academic career in 1997, he has taught postmodernism, travel writing, contemporary fiction and literary theory. A continuing interest in abstract forms of space and time, and their importance to cultural production, form the basis for his interdisciplinary approaches to fictions of globalization, travel literature and more recently, the cultural history of the bicycle.

Courses taught in 2013-14:

CCHU9033      Countries of the Mind: Texts that Shape the World
ENGL1014       Imaginary geographies: The art of writing place
ENGL2078       The novel today
ENGL6080       Travel Writing

Major Publications:

1. The Postmodern Chronotope: Reading Space and Time in Contemporary Fiction (2000)

2. Asian Crossings: Travel Writing on China, Japan and Southeast Asia (2008) ed. With Steve Clark

3. Travel Writing, Form and Empire: The Politics and Poetics of Mobility (2009) ed. With Julia Kuehn

4. Travel Writing and the Natural World 1768-1840 (2012)

5. Bicycle: A Cultural History (forthcoming 2013)

Postgraduate supervision

Proposals for research degrees from suitably qualified graduates in any of the following areas will be considered: Fictions of globalization, Literature and the environment, Travel writing.

Current book project

Bicycle – a book on the cultural history of the bicycle which explores its invention as a cultural object, its impact on systems of mobility, its translation from West to East and back again, and future trajectories as a political vehicle.

Next book project

Writing Nature and the New Realism – this book examines ecocritical approaches to nature in fiction and travel writing, and asks to what extent these continue to produce ideologically-charged symbolisms which dis-place the natural world.


Book chapters and refereed articles in journals and books. For major publications (books) see -- main page.

1. Belonging and Placelessness in the Postmodern Novel' (pp.373-385), in Space and Place: The Geographies of Literature (Liverpool: Liverpool John Moore's University Press, 1997).

2. 'Post-imperial Topographies: The Ungrounding of History in The Singapore Grip, Insular Possession and Waterland' , (pp. 112-117) in Ralph Crane (ed), J.G. Farrell: The Critical Grip (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999).

3. 'Postmodern Blackness and Unbelonging in the Works of Caryl Phillips', The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 37 (2, 2002), pp. 5-19.

4. Revised version of 'Postmodern Blackness and Unbelonging in the Works of Caryl Phillips' printed in On the Road to Baghdad, or Traveling Biculturalism: Theorizing a Bicultural Approach to Contemporary World Fiction, ed. Gonul Pultar (New Academia, 2005), pp. 273 – 288.

5-6. 'Peter Ackroyd' - biographical profile and essay on Hawksmoor (with Julia Kuehn) in the Literary Encyclopedia (web-based publication, ed. Robert Clark, 2002-4)

7-9. 'Caryl Phillips' - biographical profile, and essays on Tom Stoppard's Travesties and Arcadia (with Julia Kuehn) Literary Encyclopedia (web-based publication, ed. Robert Clark, 2003/4)

10-18. 'Oderic of Pordenone', 'Paul Theroux', 'Claude Levi-Strauss', 'Fictional Travel', 'Imperialist Narrative', 'Tourism', 'Daniel Defoe', 'Jonathan Swift', 'Jan Morris' (9 articles) in The Literature of Travel and Exploration (Taylor Francis, 2003)

19. 'Travels in Globablity: Pico Iyer and Jan Morris in Hong Kong', Studies in Travel Writing 8 (2, 2004): 179-197.

20. 'The Journey from Modern to Postmodern in The Travels of Sir John Mandeville and Marco Polo's Divisament dou Monde', in Studies in Medievalism (special issue, Postmodern Medievalisms (Boydell and Brewer, 2005), pp. 159 – 179.

21. 'Introduction' to Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo, (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2005) XXV11 - XL1

22. 'No place for Shakespeare in Utopia: high culture and low conditioning’, in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World' in David Izzo (ed.), Brave New World: Essays. (2008)

23. ‘Introduction’ to Julia Kuehn and Paul Smethurst (eds), Travel Writing, Form and Empire (Routledge, 2009), pp. 1-18.

24. ‘Post-Orientalism and the Past-Colonial in William Dalrymple’s Travel Histories’, in Justin Edwards and Rune Graulund (eds), Postcolonial Travel Writing: Critical Explorations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 156-172.

25. ‘Peripheral Vision, Landscape, and Nation-Building in Thomas Pennant’s Tours of Scotland, 1769-72’, in Benjamin Colbert (ed), Travel Writing and Tourism in Britain and Ireland (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 13-30.

Other outputs:

'Marco Polo's Travels: The Book That Changed the World' - Special issue of Time Magazine, Summer 2006.

'Society in the Future: Utopia and Dystopia', in Digitale Oberstufe Englisch, Modul 3 / English Interactive, Advanced 2, (Berlin: Cornelson, 2003) CD-ROM publication.

Book reviews:

1. Modern Language Review, 1995, Critical Reconstructions: The Relationship of Fiction to Life. Ed. By Robert Polhemus and Roger B. Henkle, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994)

2-3. The Yearbook of English Studies, Jan. 1996, The Institution of Theory By Murray Krieger, (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994) and The Myth of Theory By William Righter, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)

4. Modern Language Review, 1996 - Apocalypse Theory and The Ends of the World, Ed. Malcolm Bull (Wolfson College Lectures) Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

5. Modern Language Review vol 93.3, 1998, pp. 814-5 - Novel Arguments: Reading Innovative American Fiction, By Richard Walsh. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)

6. The Yearbook of English Studies vol 26, 1997 - Metaphors of Genre: The Role of Analogies in Genre Theory, by David Fishlov.

7. The Yearbook of English Studies vol 29, 1999, pp. 266-7 - The Translatability of Cultures: Figurations of the Space Between, Ed. Sanford Budick and Wolfgang Iser

8-9. Books in Wales, Autumn 1996, pp. 14-5. Reviews of Poetry in the British Isles: Non-Metropolitan Perspectives, Ed, Hans-Werner Ludwig and Lothar Fietz, and Peripheral Visions: Images of Nationhood in Contemporary British Fiction. Ian A. Bell

10. Modern Language Review, vol 94.3, 1999, pp. 809-10 - Turning Points: Essays in the History of Cultural Expression. By Marshall Brown (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997)

11. Modern Language Review, vol 94.3, 1999, pp. 808-9 - The Division of Literature: Or the University in Deconstruction. By Peggy Kamuf. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1997)

12-13. Modern Language Review, vol. 96.2, 2001, pp. 454-5 - Intentions: Negotiated, Contested, and Ignored. By Arabella Lyon. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998; and Loiterature. By Ross Chambers. Lincolon and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

14. Studies in Travel Writing, vol. 6, 2002, pp.142-144 - Defining Travel: Diverse Visions, ed. Susan L. Roberson. Jackson: University of Mississipi Press, 2001

15. Studies in Travel Writing, vol. 11, no. 2, 2007, pp. 205-208 -- Return to Postmodernism: Theory-Travel Writing-Autobiography, ed. Klaus Stierstorfer. Heidelberg, 2005.

16. Review of English Studies, 61 (251, 2010): 667-668. Contemporary British Fiction and the Artistry of Space: Style, Landscape, Perception. By David James.


'Depthlessness and the Postmodern'. University of Leeds. Contexts: Writing and History (1995)

'Of Postmodern Chronotopes, Cyberspace and the Ontology of Multiple Worlds'. University of Luton. Envisaging Futures (1996)

'History, Hybridity and Ethnicity in the Works of Timothy Mo and Caryl Philips'. Tampere, Finland, Crossroads in Cultural Studies (1998)

'The Poetic Image, the Speaking Being and the Poststructuralist World in J.M. Coetzee's Foe', University of Nottingham, Speech, Writing and Context (1998)

'Writing Sites: Towards a Genealogy of Travel', University of Hong Kong (1998)

'From Egeria to Village Nazareth 2000, Pilgrimage and Paradise in the Medieval and the Postmodern', University of Hong Kong (2001)

'Globality in the travel writings of Jan Morris and Pico Iyer', Tampere, Finland, Crossroads in Cultural Studies (2002)

'Modernity, Postmodernity and New/Late Modernity: Perspectives on China's 21st-century architecture', University of Tokyo, (2008)

Organiser (with Julia Kuehn) of Mobilis in Mobile: International Conference in Travel Writing, July, 2005.


Last updated: 30 July 2013