I’m a critic and historian of post-1945 American fiction, based at Cambridge University. My PhD offers the first comprehensive account of the influence of Gordon Lish, whose activities as a teacher, editor and publisher shaped the work and careers of two generations of major American writers. I’m Lish’s authorized biographer, and I’ve published numerous essays exploring his impact on U.S. fiction. Alongside twentieth- and twenty-first century literary history, my research engages extensively with publishing history, intellectual history, and the sociology of literature. From October 2017 I’ll hold a Research Fellowship at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.
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.” I also teach large and small groups of students, and supervise dissertations, in contemporary writing, American literature, critical practice, and the history and theory of literary criticism.
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 a founding editor of Egress, a magazine for innovative fiction, published by Little Island Press. I’m also co-editor in chief at 3:AM Magazine, where I commission criticism and non-fiction. Previously, I worked for several years in book publishing, in both editorial and publicity roles.
For details of books 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, Gordon Lish and 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
One of the preeminent non-US critics of formally innovative contemporary US fiction. Winters’s emphasis on and enthusiastic commitment to the so-called “Lish strain” feels at once perfectly appropriate and totally novel. He’s right to set his sights on Lish, as a significant fraction of the most intelligent and daring recent US fiction has proceeded in direct consequence of Lish’s teaching and influence, and yet how many US critics have devoted themselves, as Winters has, to a rigorous study of this consequence?
The Denver Quarterly
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. David is also the foremost authority on the “school” of Gordon Lish, and the only person capable of analysing their work from a philosophical perspective.
Andrew Gallix, 3:AM Magazine