Twentieth-Century British Literature

Vu Tran

I am a fiction writer whose work thus far is preoccupied with the legacy of the Vietnam War for the Vietnamese who remained in the homeland, the Vietnamese who immigrated to America, and the Americans whose lives have intersected with both.  I write with an awareness of American postcolonial narratives, particularly in the context of cultural identity. 

John Wilkinson

John WilkinsonI am a poet and scholar of poetics who joined the English department in 2010. Currently I serve as Chair of Creative Writing and of the Divisional Committee on Poetics.
 
My first collection of poetry, Useful Reforms, was published in 1976. My recent publications include Down to Earth (Salt, 2008), Reckitt’s Blue (Seagull Books 2013) and Ghost Nets (Omnidawn 2016). A selected poems, Schedule of Unrest, was published by Salt in 2014. My work is referenced in the standard guides and histories of recent British poetry and of Modernist poetry, and has been the subject of several published papers.
 
My critical publications include a collection of essays, The Lyric Touch (Salt 2007), which includes essays on poetics; on ‘Cambridge School’ poetry including J.H. Prynne, Denise Riley, and John James; and on American poetry, notably John Wieners. Subsequently I have published papers on George Oppen; the New York poets Frank O’Hara and James Schuyler and three papers on Barbara Guest; and a substantial paper on lyric titled “Repeatable Evanescence”.  I have also published on the British poet Barry MacSweeney, and additional papers on Prynne.
 
My present critical, scholarly and research work falls into three distinct but related areas. I am interested in supporting research work in these areas, in New York School poetry, and in recent poetic practice and theory. Beyond the three areas indicated below, I am also publishing papers on Andrea Brady, the persistence of the elegiac genre, and a further paper on John Wieners.
 
1.         British poetry and painting in the mid-century.  I have a paper forthcoming on Dylan Thomas, but the chief focus of my attention is W.S. Graham. In particular I am interested in Graham’s relations with the St Ives painters Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton and Bryan Wynter, and the debates on abstraction and landscape which inform both the poetic and visual work. I am also interested in the bearing of these debates on concurrent debates in the US, particular as they bear on the painting of Willem de Kooning and the poetry of Barbara Guest.
 
2.         US-UK poetics relations in the 1960s and 1970s. I am working on a paper on Charles Olson and J.H. Prynne, drawing on their extensive correspondence, which will challenge the one-way model of influence from US to UK in this period. There is considerable scope for further study, notably in relations between Ted Berrigan and John James, and the intensive connections between British Marxist Feminist poets such as Denise Riley and Wendy Mulford and American poets including Alice Notley.
 
3.         Outsider Writing. I am a Principal Investigator, along with Matt ffytche who chairs Psychoanalytical Studies at the University of Essex, for an ambitious project on Outsider Writing launching in 2016,  with its initial three years supported by the University of Chicago Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society. The project will focus on post-1945 writing by people with major mental illness (but within a longer historical perspective), taking account of the antecedents of mental illness in experiences of racism, immigration and other forces of social oppression and dislocation. It will develop an archive of primary and critical materials and aims ultimately to establish a research center. The first three years will consider Outsider theory as it is now developing, connections with Outsider (visual) Art, the politics of outsider status in the art and literary markets, and define the scope of the project more broadly. It will also seek to involve practitioners as well as scholars.
 
Among other activities, I am chairing the planning group for a centennial conference on the great black Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks in April 2017. I am also editing with Keston Sutherland of Sussex University a special issue of Textual Practice on the aesthetic turn in criticism, with an emphasis on the implications for pedagogy. My own contribution will consider the art writing of Adrian Stokes, which connects with research area 1 above.
 
My background is unusual in that until 2005 my career was in mental health services in the UK, as a nurse, a social worker, a housing development worker, a strategic planner and a public health professional.  Although in management theory much lip service is paid to career flexibility, it is my experience that students considering an academic career don’t believe such talk, and with some reason. I’m happy to talk about the possibility and problems of sustaining an intellectual and creative life outside the academy and a creative life within it.

Maud Ellmann

Maud EllmannMy research and teaching interests focus on British and European modernism and critical theory, particularly psychoanalysis and feminism. My first book, The Poetics of Impersonality: T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, takes a deconstructive approach to these poets’ work, analyzing how their championship of literary impersonality – i.e. the disappearance of the poet in the poem - reveals their divided political and philosophical allegiances. My second book, The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing, and Imprisonment, examines the phenomenon of self-starvation, ranging from Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa to Bobby Sands, the iconic martyr of the Irish Hunger Strike of 1981. 

William Veeder (emeritus, teaching 2015-16)

Henry James - The Lessons of the Master: by William VeederIn the classroom and on paper, I am working to integrate text and context. The pleasures of reading remain paramount for me. Now that the reaction against New Criticism has crested, I am exploring how to supplement readerly pleasures with the intricate, amplifying elements to be engaged through contextual study, and through psychoanalytic and gender theories. Whether the classroom is focusing on American and British Gothic of the Nineteenth Century (Eng. 45100, 41800) or on contemporary fiction (Eng. 247, 270, 499) or on specific figures such as Henry James (Eng. 223) or Ambrose Bierce (Eng. 298), I work from James' wonderful dictum "in the arts feeling is always meaning." Each student's individual experience of the text is what I emphasize: our goal is not to agree but to define what we share and where we disagree. Respect for affective differences, rather than homage to a fashionable ideology or methodology, is the goal of my teaching.

Lawrence Rothfield

Lawrence Rothfield
 
My research focuses on the way in which literature, criticism, and other cultural activities are caught up within epistemic and political struggles. I am interested in understanding, in particular, how the nineteenth-century novel in England and France mutates in response to changes in what counts as knowledge (the emergence of physiology, statistics, economics, biology, linguistics, Darwinism); how cultural criticism carves out a niche for itself within the field of disciplines; and how fiction and criticism function as instruments of power. http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/R/bo5825985.html

Lisa Ruddick

Lisa RuddickI teach courses in modern British fiction, literature and psychoanalysis, and poetry and poetics. The question driving my teaching right now is: what conduces to the feeling of aliveness? Why do good poems and novels seem to draw us close to something we'd call being, and is there a way to talk about this phenomenon in non-fuzzy, theoretical terms? What do poets variously say about the sense of readiness that precedes creation, and how does the adherence to form help to enable this readiness? 

Elaine Hadley

Elaine HadleyI teach and write about nineteenth-century British culture, a period that has generously left behind a wide range of materials to examine. I've been especially committed in recent years to thinking about popular culture broadly defined (theater, journalism, cheap fiction) and political culture, especially liberalism as a social formation. My latest book, Living Liberalism, addresses Victorian political culture through political theory, theories of embodiment and the material practices of citizenship. 

W. J. T. Mitchell

W. T. J. MitchellI teach in both the English and the Art History departments and edit the interdisciplinary journal, Critical Inquiry, a quarterly devoted to critical theory in the arts and human sciences. I work particularly on the history and theories of media, visual art, and literature, from the eighteenth century to the present. My work explores the relations of visual and verbal representations in the culture and iconology (the study of images across the media).  In addition to publications resulting from my own research, under my editorship Critical Inquiry has published special issues on public art, psychoanalysis, pluralism, feminism, the sociology of literature, canons, race and identity, narrative, the politics of interpretation, postcolonial theory, and many other topics.

Elizabeth Helsinger (emerita, teaching 2016-17)

Elizabeth HelsingerI have long been fascinated with the interplay between literature and the visual and material arts. My early work focused on art and social criticism of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Ruskin, Hazlitt, Baudelaire, Pater): on the aesthetic or social assumptions that writers on the arts helped to formulate and the art that shaped their and their readers' sensibilities. Reading became a central term, as I studied how these critics borrow from and in turn shape techniques of looking and of more literary reading and interpretation. I've also worked extensively on landscape as an especially interesting aspect of the shared literary and visual culture of the first half of the nineteenth century—and as the site of competing, often highly politicized constructions of Englishness.

Bill Brown

Bill BrownIn the past, my research has focused on popular literary genres (e.g. science fiction, the Western), on recreational forms (baseball, kung fu), and on the ways that mass-cultural phenomena (from roller coasters to Kodak cameras) impress themselves on the literary imagination. Rather than assuming that historical contexts help to explain a particular literary text, I assume that literature provides access to an otherwise unrecuperable history. That is, I assume that the act of literary analysis (including formal analysis) can become an "historiographical operation" all its own.

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