James Brophy

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I study British literature, focusing particularly on the late nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth, as well as on poetry and poetics more broadly. I’m interested in the ways modernism inherits late-Victorian aestheticism—how the aesthetic might substantiate, instead of distract from, ethical engagement; how it might mitigate ironism. I’m also interested more generally in modernist writing—lyrical and literary-more-generally—for its promise of an idiosyncratic realm of free action for authors so cognizant of the force of scientific, material, and institutional forms of determination. What might literature demonstrate about the limits, and possibilities, of the free agency we intuit? Some authors I return to frequently include Pater, Hardy, Mew, Woolf, Conrad, Auden and Beckett.


I have recently written on translation theory (“Mandelshtam’s Ovid: Translating Poryv’ into English,” Translation Studies, Vol. 11, 2018), and am contributing short essays on poets John Ashbery and Carl Sandburg to Twentieth Century and Contemporary American Literature in Context (ed. Linda DeRoche, Westport: Greenwood, forthcoming 2018). A review essay on the third annual Samuel Beckett Society Conference, “the things that were told…”, will appear in The Beckett Circle, and an essay on Beckett, “The Lover’s Endgame in ‘Extreme Solitude’,” has been accepted for a volume to be called Beckett Beyond the Normal, to be edited by Seán Kennedy.

Recent Presentations:

“‘the lover and the killer are mingled’: Combat Gnostisticim & Carnal Knowledge in Keith Douglas,” The Human Body and World War II Conference, University of Oxford,
March 22-25, 2018.

“Autonomy and Arendtian Cliché: Banality and Monstrosity in Conrad’s The Secret Agent,” on the Joseph Conrad Society of America panel, MLA, New York, January 5-8, 2018.

“as if the sex mattered”: Endgame and the Lover’s Discourse,” Conference of the Samuel Beckett Society, Saint Mary U., Halifax, Nova Scotia, July 17-20 2017.

“Aaron Fogel’s The Printer’s Error: Piety and the Political in the American 1990s,” National Poetry Foundation’s Poetry & Poetics of the 1990s, June 28 – July 1, 2017.

“‘A Thought from Propertius’: Yeats and Propertius on the Temporality of Lyric Desire,” at the INSL Situating the Lyric Conference, Boston University, June 7-11, 2017.

“Makes Nothing, Survives: A Modernist Poetics between Auden and Beckett” Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900, U. of Louisville, February 25, 2017.

“Brutal Mobilization and Modernity from Arnold to Auden,” Mobile Communities Graduate Humanities Conference, Tufts University, October 28, 2016.

“Auden Reviews Gay Desire,” Northeast Modern Languages Association, Hartford, Connecticut, March 18, 2016.  

“Imagining Pain: Tennyson’s Patron Saint of Self-Tormentors,” Conference on the Imaginary, Northeastern University, March 4-5, 2016.