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George Cox

PhD in American Studies, Faculty of Arts

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Research Summary

Current Status

PhD (full-time) - currently registered

Research Topic

Transcendental 'Becomings' and the Internet in Contemporary American Literature

Research Summary

My project is examining how particular tropes of nineteenth-century literary Transcendentalism in America are re-imagined in literature since 2000, in order to represent the relationship between users and their internet technologies. Specifically, I shall argue that more recognized figures such as Jennifer Egan and Colson Whitehead, and 'alternative' writers such as Steve Roggenbuck, use Transcendentalist aesthetics to depart from the economizing instincts of the commercial digital platforms they represent, and a particularly neoliberal subjectivity.

Reading Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, I shall argue for the importance of the trope of 'becoming', or the transition between states of being: for example, this is integral to both Sharon Cameron's idea of impersonality when reading Emerson's selfhood and Branka Arsić's subsequent argument for the importance of departures in Emerson. I currently plan to structure my thesis in three segments/chapters, each concerning different yet interrelated ideas of 'becoming' and how they are applied to selfhood on the internet: becoming mutable, becoming networked, and becoming posthuman. Each ultimately suggests the transcendent, emancipatory potential of internet technology. I am also roughly planning a fourth chapter on the suitability of Walden as a metaphoric referent for the internet.

Research Interests

  • Nineteenth Century American Literature, in particular Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Transcendentalism
  • Contemporary American Fiction and Poetry
  • Digital Cultures

Research Supervisors

Dr. Graham Thompson

Dr. Anthony Hutchison

Primary Funding Source

AHRC Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership

Research Institutes, Centres and/or Research Clusters Memberships

British Association for American Studies

British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies

British Association of Nineteenth-Century Americanists

The Ralph Waldo Emerson Society

University of Nottingham Landscape, Space and Place Reading Group

Conference Papers & Presentations

  • 'Since these were only words, they tasted like excellent dark chocolate': Scatology, Sex and Superficiality in the novels of Jonathan Franzen - "American Stuff": American Literature Graduate Symposium, University of Cambridge. 14 May 2016.
  • 'Interesting to the Manufacturer, the Dealer and the Smoker': Resituating Whitman's Three Young Men's Deaths in British Smoking Discourse - 9th Annual International Whitman Week Symposium, University of Exeter. 4 June 2016.

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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