Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.

David Clark, Ph.D.

Professor of English

Phone: 905-525-9140 x.23737
Office: Chester New Hall 321

Areas of Interest

Contemporary Critical Theory; post-Enlightenment Philosophy; Romantic Literary Practice; Critical Animal Studies; Social and Political Thought.


My research work began with the poetry and designs of the radical English visionary William Blake and with the intersection of contemporary critical theory, post-Enlightenment philosophy, and Romantic literary practice. Contemporary critical theory remains a main concern, especially the later work of Jacques Derrida. Although I still consider myself an active Romanticist, my focus has shifted towards symptomatic readings of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century philosophy, notably the writings of Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Schelling. Engaging philosophical texts as sites of conflicted desire, disavowal, and self-difference, my research and teaching address the complex imbrication of rhetoric and culture that quickens Kantian and post-Kantian thought, and in particular dwells upon the cultural excesses and conceptual remainders that trouble philosophical and theoretical narratives. My current project on Kant explores the bodies and pleasures haunting the philosopher’s last published writings, while my work on Schelling discusses the unsettling role that resistant negativities play in the mourning work of German idealism. Other research foci include: philosophical articulations of animality and responsibility in Levinas, Kant, Derrida, and Heidegger; the rhetoric of “drugs” and “addiction” in Heidegger, Kant, De Quincey, and Schelling; the question of extraordinary forms of embodiment; the meanings of queer theory after the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.

At the undergraduate and graduate level, I primarily teach courses in critical theory, although in the past I have certainly also taught courses in Romantic literature and culture. (See Courses.) For several years I have also offered courses (in both the Department of English and in the Health Studies Programme) on the discourses of HIV/AIDS–a topic about which I have also supervised several undergraduate and graduate theses. In January 2006 and 2007 I offered a new fourth-year seminar in the Health Studies Programme called “Narratives of Illness.” In addition to graduate seminars on a range of subjects (from HIV/AIDS to the work of Jacques Derrida) in the Department of English and Cultural Studies, I have twice taught one of the core courses for McMaster’s new M.A. program in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory, a seminar called “On the Remains of the University.” As a member of the Council of Instructors in the Arts & Science Program, I teach “Social and Political Thought,” a core course in that program.

I warmly welcome M.A. and Ph.D. research projects that produce or explore connections between different disciplines, discourses, and objects of analysis. Of particular interest to me are projects that address the following concerns: questions of embodiment, subjectivity, responsibility, mourning, animality; contemporary critical theory, especially its intersections with Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophy; German idealism as a site of theorization about affect, desire, and loss; representations and politics of health and illness. I especially welcome students who are working with critical theories and cultural archives from a wide range of historical periods leading up to the present day. In other words, I want to recognize and affirm the critical power and conceptual significance of critical theory developed before–as well as during–the twentieth and twenty-first century. Frankly, talking about popular culture ephemera–as pleasurable as that undoubtedly can be–interests me much less than critically engaging discourses–going back to the late eighteenth-century–that directly engage the more pressing and consequential questions. These include, for example: What are the limits of knowledge? What are the histories, politics, and ethics of being-embodied? What relationships obtain between knowledge, action, and the matter of responsibilities for others? What does it mean to dwell with others? Why war? Or to recall Kant’s great queries: What can I know? What must I do? What am I permitted to hope for? Moreover, because contemporary critical theories are deeply informed by their historical antecedents, I encourage research that explores the links joining what is imagined to be the “present” to what is imagined to be the “past.” How do current critical theories help us re-read earlier interrogations of and negotiations with analogous questions and problems? And how does this historical archive provide a new optic through which to consider today’s complexities? How to write what Michel Foucault calls “a history of the present?”

A founding member of the Plurality and Alterity interdisciplinary research group (1991-7), I have twice been Visiting Professor at the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism (University of Western Ontario). I was Halls-Bascom Visiting Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during November 2003, and Visiting Fellow at the Center for Humanities at Washington University in April 2009. I was George Whalley Visiting Professor in Romanticism in the Department of English at Queen’s University during the winter term of 2012, and I was Lansdowne Visiting Scholar at the University of Victoria in November 2012. I am also founder of The Hospitality Project: Five Hundred Letters of Welcome to Omar Khadr.

Currently I am co-editor (along with Henry A. Giroux) of the scholarly journal, The Review of Education, Pedagogy & Cultural Studies. Founded by Henry A. Giroux and Patrick Shannon in the early 1990s, The Review of Education, Pedagogy & Cultural Studies is the only journal which publishes critical essays that explore pedagogy and its relation to a wide variety of political, social, cultural and economic issues. It is particularly concerned with issues focusing on how pedagogy works within and across a variety of contemporary and historical sites (not limited to formal spaces of education, but including popular culture, museums, film, and other social spaces) and how pedagogical practices emerge out of specific historical struggles, concrete projects, and particular relations of power. The journal is robustly interdisciplinary, attracting cutting-edge work from scholars the world over in anthropology, sociology, critical theory, literary studies, history, psychoanalysis, philosophy, education studies, the arts and other fields in the humanities and social sciences. Susan Searls Giroux has been managing editor of the journal since 1998, attending to all facets of its daily operation. We warmly welcome submissions of rigorous and searching work.

In addition to my desire to create informed and unsettling classroom experiences for my undergraduate students, I am committed to fostering a rigorous and capacious educational environment for students enrolled in our graduate programme, an environment quickened by critique, responsibility, and academic professionalism. (For a more detailed account of my understanding of the meaning of teaching and learning, see my remarks in Thought and Theory, posted on my website.) In 2006 I was honoured to be the recipient of the McMaster Student Union’s Annual Teaching Award. And in two recent national surveys, I was listed as one of McMaster University’s “Popular Professors” (Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities 2005 and 2006), but this is a description about which I have deep reservations. (McMaster has since severed its relationship with the Maclean’s survey.) Popularity with my students is not what I seek; what I seek is curiosity, intellectual courage and a commitment to the task of becoming a public intellectual. What I seek is the student devoted to thinking more complexly and writing more persuasively. Mindful of what Socrates teaches, my goals are to encourage certain forms of impiety in students and to corrupt their minds. In 1996 I was honoured to receive the President’s Award of Excellence in Graduate Supervision, an award for which I was also short-listed in 2002. From 2001 to 2005 I was a member–and then co-chair–of the Appraisal Committee (Section II) of the Ontario Council of Graduate Studies, the body that overlooks the quality of graduate education in all of the province’s graduate programmes. In 2006-7, I was chair of Section V–the committee devoted exclusively to appraising new graduate programs.


Recent Publications and Works in Progress:

“Worldlessness and the Worst in Goya’s Disasters of War.” Romantic Praxis (forthcoming 2016).

“Goya’s Scarcity.” In Constellations of Contemporary Romanticism. Eds. Jacques Khalip and Tres Pyle. New York: Fordham UP, 2016. 82-121.

“Minimal Romanticism,” Eds. David L. Clark and Jacques Khalip, Romantic Praxis.  (May 2016).

Animots: Animality in French ThoughtYale French Studies 127(2015). Eds. Matthew Senior, David L. Clark, Carla Frecerro.

“What Remains to be Seen: Animal, Atrocity, Witness”Yale French Studies 127(2015): 143-171.

Towards a Prehistory of the Postanimal (seminar discussion paper for circulation / 106 pages) [Link]


Bodies and Pleasures in Late Kant. (For a detailed description of the book, click here.)


Regarding Sedgewick



Regarding Sedgwick: Essays on Queer Culture and Critical Theory. Eds. Stephen M. Barber and David L. Clark. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Includes: “Queer Moments: The Performative Temporalities of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.” 1-53. By Stephen M. Barber and David L. Clark. “‘This Piercing Bouquet:” An Interview with Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.” 243-262; “Selected Bibliography of Texts by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.” 263-269.






Intersections: Nineteenth-Century Philosophy and Contemporary Theory. Eds. Tilottama Rajan and David L. Clark. State U of New York Press,1995. 386 + vii.

Includes: “Speculations: Idealism and its Rem(a)inders;” 1-35. By Tilottama Rajan and David L. Clark. “`The Necessary Heritage of Darkness:’ Tropics of Negativity in Schelling, Derrida, and de Man.” 79-146. By David L. Clark.
New Romanticisms



New Romanticisms: Theory and Critical Practice. Eds. David L. Clark and Donald C. Goellnicht. Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 1994. 303 + xii.

Includes: “Discriminations: Romanticism in the Wake of Deconstruction;” By David L. Clark and Donald C. Goellnicht. 3-24; “Against Theological Technology: Blake’s `Equivocal Worlds.'” 164-222. By David L. Clark.



Contributions to Books:

“Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.” Co-authored with Stephen M. Barber. Encyclopedia of Literature and Politics: Censorship, Revolution, and Writing. Ed. M. Keith Booker (Greenwood Press: Westport, CT, 2005), 644-645.

“Hegel, Eating: Schelling and the Carnivorous Virility of Philosophy.” Cultures of Taste / Theories of Appetite: Eating Romanticism. Ed. Timothy Morton. New York: Macmillan, 2004. 115-139.

“Otherwise than God: Schelling, Marion.” Trajectories of Mysticism in Theory and Literature. Ed. Phillip Leonard. London: Macmillan, 2000. 136-176.mac

“On Being ‘the Last Kantian in Nazi Germany’: Dwelling with Animals After Levinas.” Animal Acts: Configuring the Human in Western History. Eds. Jennifer Ham and Matthew Senior. New York: Routledge, 1997. 165-198. Rpt. and rev. in Postmodernism and the Ethical Subject. Ed. Barbara Gabriel and Susan Ilcan. Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2004. 41-75. Rpt. and trans. “‘Ostatni kantysta w nazistowskich Niemczech’. Zwierzta i ludzie po Levinasie,” trans. by Adam Ostolski, in: Teoria wiedzy o przeszoci na tle wspóczesnej humanistyki, ed. by Ewa Domaska (Pozna: Wydawnictwo Pozanskie, 2010): 475-523.

Being Humaned: Medical Documentaries and the Hyperrealization of Conjoined Twins.” Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. By David L. Clark and Catherine Myser. Ed. Rosemarie Thomson. New York: New York U Press, 1996. 338-355.

“Illegibility, Monstrosity, Denegation: De Man, bp Nichol, and the Resistance to Postmodernism.” Negation, Critical Theory, and Postmodern Textuality. Ed. Daniel Fischlin. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Press, 1994. 259-300. Rpt. and rev. “Illegibility, Monstrosity, Denegation: De Man and the Resistance to Postmodernism.” Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Ed. Jeffrey Cohen. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 1996. 285-311.

“How To Do Things With Shakespeare: Illustrative Theory and Practice in Blake’s Pity.” The Mind in Creation: Essays on Romantic Literature in Honour of Ross G. Woodman. Ed. J. Douglas Kneale. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s U Press, 1992. 106-133, 167-173.

Journal Articles:

“Unsocial Kant: The Philosopher and the Un-regarded War Dead.” The Wordsworth Circle , 41. 1 (Winter 2010) : 60-68

“Genius of the Shore: Memorial Address for Dr. Balachandra Rajan.” South Asian Review 30.3 (2009): 45-54.

“Ann Coulter and Blowhard Politics: Canadian Universities and the War on Thought.” Truthout (30 March 2010)

“Perspectives on Pediatrics.” Anna Joong and David Clark. McMaster University Medical Journal 5.2 (Spring 2009), forthcoming.

“Lost and Found in Translation: Romanticism and the Legacies of Jacques Derrida.” Studies in Romanticism 46.2 (Summer/Fall 2007): 161- 182.

“Speaking of HIV/AIDS: Some Reflections on the Local Faces of the Epidemic.” David L. Clark and Anna G. Joong. Discussion by David L. Clark. Mcmaster University Medical Journal 5.1 (Spring 2008) 34-43.”.

“Schelling’s Wartime: Philosophy and Violence in the Age of Napoleon.” European Romantic Review 19.2 (April 2008): 139-148.

“Bereft: Derrida’s Memory and the Spirit of Friendship.” South-Atlantic Quarterly 106.2 (Spring 2007): 291-324.

“Tilottama Rajan: On Romantic Migrancy.” Keats-Shelley Journal (Fall 2006): 22-28.

“‘Waving, not drowning:’ On the Lives and Afterlives of Theory.” Studies in Romanticism 44.2 (Summer 2005): 261-270.

“The Last Temptation of Marion Woodman: The Anorexic Remainder in Bone: Dying into Life.” Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture 72.1 (2005): 131-158. Rpt. and rev. Critical Interventions in the Ethics of Healthcare. Challenging the Principle of Autonomy in Bioethics. Eds. Stuart Murray and David Holmes. London: Ashgate, 2009. 215-233.

“We ‘Other Prussians:’ Bodies and Pleasures in De Quincey and Late Kant.” European Romantic Review 14.2 (2003): 261-287.

“Kant’s Aliens: The Anthropology and its Others.” The New Centennial Review. 1.2 (Fall 2001): 201-289.

“Mourning Becomes Theory: Schelling and the Absent Body of Philosophy.” Schelling and Romanticism. Romantic Circles Praxis Series (June 2000): 16pars. Rpt. PostHuman Destinies 23 June 2010.

“‘Fixing’ Katie and Eilish: Medical Documentaries and the Subjection of Conjoined Twins.” By Catherine Myser and David L. Clark. Literature and Medicine 17.1 (Spring 1998): 45-67.

“Heidegger’s Craving: Being-on-Schelling.” Diacritics 27.3 (1997): 8-33. Rpt. in High Culture: Reflections on Addiction and Modernity. Eds. Anna Alexander and Mark Roberts. Albany: SUNY Press, 2002. 95-131.

“The End of Seduction: A Few Words about Baudrillard’s ‘Sex.'” By David L. Clark and Caroline Bayard. “The Destiny of Sexes and the Decline of Sexual Illusion,” by Jean Baudrillard. Public 15 (1997): 119-123.

“The Itineraries of Democracy: An Interview with Chantal Mouffe.” By Caroline Bayard and David L.  Clark. Studies in Political Economy. 49 (Spring 1996): 131-148.

“‘Visibility Should Not Be Visible:’ Blake’s Borders and the Regime of Sight.” The Wordsworth Circle 25 (Winter 1994): 29-36.

“Monstrous Reading: The Martyrology after de Man.” Studies in Canadian Literature 15.2 (1991): 1-32.

“‘The Innocence of Becoming Restored:’ Blake, Nietzsche, and the Disclosure of Difference.” Studies in Romanticism 29.1 (1990): 91-113.

Journal Guest-Editorships and Introductions Journal Guest-Editorships and Introductions:

Genius of the Shore: Essays Honouring the Life and Work of Balachandra Rajan, University of Toronto Quarterly 83.3 (2011): 619-778. Includes David. L. Clark, “On the Lessons of Balachandra Rajan,” 619-651.

Reading Baudrillard Now / Lire Baudrillard aujourd’hui. (Ed. with Caroline Bayard.) Recherches sémiotiques / Semiotic Inquiry 16.1-2 (1996). 1-183. Includes: “Gaming with Meaning: Getting Baudrillard On-Line / ‘Jouer avec le sens’: être en ligne avec Baudrillard.” 5-25.

Language, History, and the ‘Romance of Fact’ / Le langage, l’histoire, et `l’idéalization des faits.’ Recherches sémiotiques / Semiotic Inquiry 12.1-2 (1992): 1-182. Includes: “Imaginary Gardens and Real Toads/Des jardins imaginaires avec des crapauds réels.” 3-28.

Romanticism and the Legacies of Jacques Derrida. Studies in Romanticism 46.2 and 46.3 (Summer and Fall 2007). Guest Editor: David L. Clark.