Broadly speaking, I work on Anglophone literary-cultural production in the 20th and 21st centuries, with particular interests in literary history, narrative studies, war, theories and philosophies of time, and literature’s interdisciplinary intersections with visual and aural cultures. Here are some ongoing research projects:
For the Duration: British Literature and Culture in Second World Wartime
This project is a literary-cultural study of Britain during the years around the Second World War. It focuses, in particular, on the Blitz on London from 1940-44 and its immediate aftermath until 1950. Analysing the disrupted spaces and routines of wartime, it argues that spatial and temporal dislocation were defining characteristics of artistic response to the urban bombing campaigns, and it shows how figures in literature, film, photography, and painting harnessed or exploited their media’s distinctive temporal properties in response. Showing why the war was often fashioned as a memory, even while it was taking place, I discuss how the uses of modernism became as important as modernism itself, and how wartime forms of temporal re-imagining—whether through time capsules, time zone changes, or images of ruin and repair—have particular salience for understanding philosophies and phenomenologies of time during the mid-century. This, in turn, has broader import for understanding the art of the Second World War in the historiography of modern wartime, as a wartime between, but distinct from, those of the First World War and the Cold War.
Framing Displacement: Semicolonial Modernism and Women’s Short Fiction
Situated within revised theories of cosmopolitanism and semicolonialism, this project explores the way material, affective, and socio-political interrelations between colonizer, colonized, and the postcolonial are addressed by transnational women writers at the social and geographical edges of British modernism in New Zealand, the West Indies, Ireland, Australia, and Rhodesia. By concentrating on the short story — a form typically analysed in terms of displacement, marginality, liminality, trespass, suspension, and restlessness — my work makes a case for the centrality of short fiction in the history of semicolonial literature, of cosmopolitical literature, and of modernist aesthetics more generally. Among other points, it demonstrates why, for formal as well as material and print-cultural reasons, short fiction is a prominent genre for indexing the gendered histories of labour migration, emigration, and travel, and why we need to go beyond ideas of regional or national exceptionalism in short fiction literary history to understand it as a ‘world genre’.
The Aesthetics of Drone Warfare
Drones have now become commercial and readily available, with innovators promising unprecedented solutions to sectors as wide ranging as agriculture, energy, public safety, and construction. But this multi-billion-pound industry is founded upon the technology’s origins in a military context, and drone warfare has redefined the meaning of war, peace, and their temporal and geographical boundaries. This project explores the issues surrounding drone warfare through the prism of aesthetics: aesthetics understood as art, and as the relationship between the body, the self, and the material environment. Combining surveillance with targeting, satellite imaging with ground-level intelligence, drones alter how war is experienced by pilot, target, and spectator. To examine the impact of this information-based, algorithmic apparatus on the cultural consciousness, this project will bring together writers and artists, museum curators and NGOs, through public engagement events and academic research alike, to reflect on the art of drone warfare.