I’m a critic and historian of post-1945 American fiction, based at the University of Cambridge, where I hold a postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Fitzwilliam College. My research combines literary and intellectual history, publishing studies, and the sociology of literary institutions.
I recently finished the first book-length study of the editor and teacher Gordon Lish’s influence on US fiction since 1960. Drawing on extensive archival research, this book examines two generations of prominent writers, including Raymond Carver, Barry Hannah, Amy Hempel, David Leavitt, Diane Williams, Christine Schutt, Sam Lipsyte, and Ben Marcus. It also draws a new map of the period, tracing fresh connections between the counterculture, literary minimalism, structural transformations in book and magazine publishing, and the rise of creative writing instruction.
I am now at work on several new projects in literary criticism, cultural sociology, and book history, including a short monograph entitled Contemporary Small-Press Fiction for Cambridge University Press.
My academic articles and reviews have appeared in Contemporary Literature, Critical Quarterly, Modernism/modernity, Textual Practice, Radical Philosophy, and The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory. I regularly present my research across the UK, the US and Europe, and I’ve co-organized several seminars and symposia, including, recently, “Books in the Making.” At Cambridge I teach at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels in American literature, modernism and postmodernism, contemporary writing, practical criticism, and literary theory.
Beyond academia, I’ve published essays, reviews and interviews in various print and online venues, including the Times Literary Supplement, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Bookforum, The Guardian, The Independent, The White Review, The New Inquiry, The Millions, The Brooklyn Rail, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, BOMB, The Literarian, PN Review, HTMLGiant, The Quarterly Conversation, Review 31, Mute, Music & Literature, Bookslut, Berfrois, Open Letters Monthly, Full Stop, Gorse Journal, and The Literary Review.
I’m co-editor in chief at 3:AM Magazine, where I commission literary criticism and non-fiction. I also co-edit Egress, a magazine for innovative fiction, published by Little Island Press. Previously, I worked for several years in book publishing, in both editorial and publicity roles.
For books and collections I’ve written and edited, click the covers below.
Here are some things that people have said about my work:
David Winters is an exceptional talent in literary criticism. He combines a vivid, accessible style of writing with deep erudition and great intellectual precision. Ranging from popular works of fiction to difficult philosophers, he is always able to cut through the jargon and make the reader engage with the heart of the matter. Indeed, Winters is that rare thing: a young intellectual who is able to speak to the general reader while contributing to the academic conversation as well.
Martin Hägglund, Yale University
It’s only too easy, these days, to fall into a funk over the state of books in the world, but Infinite Fictions offers no small measure of reassurance. Winters’s deeply thoughtful criticism is an excellent reminder that even a generation or two hence there will be witnesses around to remind us that literature matters. Indeed, this initial salvo reads like an early effort from what Alfred Kazin once called “the critic who can set up standards for his age.”
J.C. Hallman, The Brooklyn Rail
David Winters is the smartest young critic to emerge in recent years. His writing is marked by a desire for the unorthodox, and an attention to our most daring logophiles—Lish, Lutz, Marcom, Schutt—so often overlooked by others. An intimacy with continental philosophy and literary modernism elevates his work well beyond the obvious exegetical formulas of mainstream criticism, and yet it always remains eminently readable and accessible, eminently fun. In Winters I’ve found a critic whose writing I can read without having to chalk it up to a guilty pleasure—he makes me smarter, there’s no doubt about it.
Evan Lavender-Smith, author of Avatar and From Old Notebooks
David Winters is a massively intelligent, erudite and inquiring analyst of American letters, especially American modernism, and Gordon Lish’s vast influence on the contemporary writing scene. I read his essays avidly, and always find fresh insights and fresh connections. He’s describing the furniture in the room—a lot of other critics haven’t found the door yet. Winters writes with élan, complexity and thoughtfulness. I haven’t come across another new critic I like so well.
Douglas Glover, author of Attack of the Copula Spiders
Whenever I read David Winters’ thoughts on a book, it is as though I am seeing that book anew, no matter how well I thought I already knew it. He is rigorous, broad-minded, generous, and courageous—qualities that cannot be taught, but are of essential importance for a critic to have. I look forward to reading him for years to come.
Scott Esposito, co-author of The End of Oulipo
David Winters is a brilliant young literary critic. His literary essays, which have appeared in a vast range of publications, both on- and offline, go far beyond the usual precis-and-evaluation typical of book reviews. He is unique in the philosophical subtlety and depth he brings to his work, and in the striking authors he covers.
Lars Iyer, author of Spurious, Dogma, and Exodus
David Winters has become a prominent figure in a new generation of young intellectuals. His literary criticism resists the temptation of liberal humanism and its narrow conception of literature; it interrogates the nature of the novel in a philosophically radical fashion, and sheds light on the alternative voices that are routinely ignored by the mainstream.
Carl Cederström, co-author of Dead Man Working
David Winters’ meditations on the literary experience dance with intelligence and beauty. Powerful and penetrating, his essays turn other writers’ writing into new, exciting pieces that spark the writerly imagination and leave you wanting more. A leading critic.
Susana Medina, author of Philosophical Toys
David Winters is the most exciting critic out there. Each of his essays starts from scratch, as he looks for a new vocabulary and a new form to talk about each new book. In a sense, his reviews are often even more fascinating than the books themselves—demonstrating how great a writer he truly is.
Andrew Gallix, 3:AM Magazine