Martin Riker

Senior Lecturer in English​
PhD, University of Denver
research interests:
  • International and experimental fiction
  • The philosophy of style
  • Non-canonical literary traditions
  • Literature in translation
  • Literary criticism
  • Publishing theory and practice
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    contact info:

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • CB 1122
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Professor Riker teaches a wide range of courses that draw upon and often combine his varied background as a novelist, book critic, and literary publisher. He loves literature of all types and from all eras but has particular fondness for traditions outside the American mainstream, including experimental works and literature in translation.

    Riker is author of the novel Samuel Johnson's Eternal Return (2018), which was favorably reviewed in the New Yorker, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. As a literary critic, he has written on contemporary fiction and literature in translation for such publication as New York Times Book Review, Wall Street Journal, London Review of Books, TLS, Paris Review Daily, and The Guardian. Prior to coming to Washington University, he served for almost a decade as Associate Director of the nonprofit publishing house Dalkey Archive Press, and as an editor for the periodicals The Review of Contemporary Fiction and CONTEXT: A Forum for Literary Arts and Culture. In 2010, he and his wife, Danielle Dutton, co-founded the feminist publishing house Dorothy, which offers internships to students at Washington University. Dorothy has garnered wide international praise for publishing innovative writers such as Marguerite Duras, Leonora Carrington, and Renee Gladman, and for launching the careers of acclaimed contemporary writers such as Nell Zink, Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, and Jen George.

    Courses Taught

    • The Business of Books
    • Experimental Traditions
    • Critic as Writer
    • The Writer in the World
    • The Literary Life (freshman seminar)
    • Fiction 1
    • Fiction 2
    Samuel Johnson's Eternal Return

    Samuel Johnson's Eternal Return

    When Samuel Johnson dies, he finds himself in the body of the man who killed him, unable to depart this world but determined, at least, to return to the son he left behind. Moving from body to body as each one expires, Samuel’s soul journeys on a comic quest through an American half-century, inhabiting lives as stymied, in their ways, as his own. A ghost story of the most unexpected sort, Martin Riker’s extraordinary debut is about the ways experience is mediated, the unstoppable drive for human connection, and the struggle to be more fully alive in the world.

    Martin Riker grew up in central Pennsylvania. He worked as a musician for most of his twenties, in nonprofit literary publishing for most of his thirties, and has spent the first half of his forties teaching in the English department at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2010, he and his wife Danielle Dutton co-founded the feminist press Dorothy, a Publishing Project. His fiction and criticism have appeared in publications including the Wall Street Journal, the New York TimesLondon Review of Books, the Baffler, and Conjunctions. This is his first novel.