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Hirschkop is considered one of the leading international scholars on the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and on Marxist literary theory. His book Mikhail Bakhtin: An Aesthetic for Democracy is considered to be one of the most important works of Mikhail Bakhtin scholarship available.
Hirschkop grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, and attended local schools before heading to do his first degree at Swarthmore. His original academic speciality was music theory and history. He then became an apprentice making harpsichords. In 1981 he moved to the UK to take up a place at the University of London to do an MA. His interest in Bakhtin then took him to Oxford where he began to do his doctoral research on the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, focusing on his theory of language under the supervision of Terry Eagleton. His book Mikhail Bakhtin: An Aesthetic for Democracy was largely based on his Phd thesis and was published by Oxford University Press in 1999. During his Oxford years, Hirschkop was deeply involved in the activities of Oxford English Limited and its journal News from Nowhere: Journal of the Oxford English Faculty Opposition.
He worked at the University of Southampton from 1987 until 1995 teaching cultural criticism in the English department. In 1995 he moved to the University of Manchester where he ran and taught an MA programme in Cultural Criticism until 2005. In the summer of 2005 he moved to the University of Waterloo where he is currently the Graduate Chair of English.
Hirschkop's principal current project is a study on the linguistic turn of the human sciences in the first half of the 20th century. The project covers, among others, Walter Benjamin, Wittgenstein, Bakhtin, Saussure, Ogden and Richards, Grigory Vinokur, and Ernst Cassirer. He has given a number of papers on the subject as his research progresses.
His main publications are Benjamin’s Arcades Project: an unguided tour (co-authored with Peter Buse, Scott McCracken and Bertrand Taithe), Culture, Class and Education (1945-1970) in The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature, Mikhail Bakhtin: An Aesthetic for Democracy in Oxford University Press of 1999, Bakhtin and Cultural Theory, co-edited with David Shepherd and 'Linguistic Turns: Writing on Language & Social Theory', April 2019, Oxford University Press