Department of American and Canadian Studies


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Samuel J Cooper

PhD in American Studies,



Sam Cooper is a PhD student in the Department of American & Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham and a member of the postgraduate organisational committee for the university's research priority area in Languages, Texts and Society. His focus is on the politics and culture of the long neoliberal moment, with particular regard for inequity and uneven development.

He holds an MA and BA from the University of Hertfordshire in English Literature, and spent the 2008-2009 academic year studying in Canada. Since 2015, Sam has taught modules on 20th century American literature and culture at the University of Nottingham. In the autumn semester of 2016, he will be a visiting research fellow at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and City University New York thanks to the support of the International Council for Canadian Studies and the British Association of American Studies.

Sam is an editor for the journal 49th Parallel, and a member of the Contemporary Studies Network.

Conference Papers

Sam has presented his research at national and international conferences, most notably:

Cooper S. "Aspirational Labour: Inequality as Neoliberal Necessity" Money Talks University of Nottingham, June 2015.

Cooper S. "Poetics of Dissent: Representation in Contemporary Radical North American Poetry" Symbolic Politics of Non-Representation in Contemporary Cultures of Dissent Universit├Ąt Konstanz, November 2015.

Cooper S. "Spatial Poetics" Leverhulme 'Imaginaries of the Future' Politics and Poetics Symposium Queen's University Belfast, January 2016.

Cooper S. "Pynchon's Mason & Dixon and Neoliberal Globalisation" BAAS and IAAS Joint Conference Queen's University Belfast, April 2016.

Cooper S. "Fordist Form / Post-Fordist Poetics: Jeff Derksen's The Vestiges (2013)" What Happens Now: 21st Century Writing in English University of Lincoln, June 2016.

Research Summary

Current Status

PhD (full-time)

Research Topic

Neoliberalism as Narrative: Literature, Politics and the Production of Space

Research Summary

My PhD thesis is a US-Canada cross-border study of literary responses to neoliberalism. The thesis focuses on the intersection between language, structure, politics and the production of space under global capitalism. I analyse the use of polysemy in contemporary North American radical poetry (Derksen, Spahr, Mancini, Annharte) and the ways in which these poets shift the creation of meaning to the reader. I map this "anarchic" way of reading onto the work of contemporary novelists - including Thomas Pynchon, Margaret Atwood, Sherman Alexie and Leslie Marmon Silko - to interrogate the relationship between neoliberalism, postmodernism, geography, history and colonialism in their novels.

I argue that neoliberal ideology naturalises the free market as a necessitarian ordering principle by simplifying language into binaries. This simplification in turn facilitates the imagined seamless space of the globalised world which is pivotal to veiling the uneven development that undermines the entire neoliberal narrative. I contend that, where language is constrained by necessitarian neoliberal ideology, cultural products demonstrate the possibility of alternatives to neoliberalism by foregrounding the adaptability of meaning and emphasising the readers' agency.

Research Interests

My research interests are: economics in literature and other cultural products; critical theory; literary theory; poetry and poetics; the encyclopaedic novel; postmodernism; globalisation; space and place; debt, money and crisis capitalism; protest and dissent. I am also interested in critical studies of comic books, detective fiction, science fiction and fantasy.

Research Supervisor/s

Professor Judie Newman and Dr Susan Billingham

Department of American and Canadian Studies

University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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