Tuesday, October 23, 2012
My classes at Villanova focus on literary modernism, 20th-century British and Irish Fiction, and the relationship between philosophy and fiction. I am currently fascinated by the fact that James Joyce thought it was a good idea to translate a section of Finnegans Wake into Basic English, C. K. Ogden's 'simplified' English language, and the translation actually appeared in 1932. How could a language with only 850 words, mostly nouns, designed to facilitate international communication and favored by Winston Churchill and Henry Ford, possibly translate Joyce's puns and word-play? My book, entitled Modernist Fiction & Vagueness, grapples with this translation as one of many works where philosophical and literary ideas about language's possible precision collide. I focus on the general modernist dream of precision in figures such as Bertrand Russell, Ezra Pound and James Joyce as well as its converse, the praise of the 'vague,' the blur, and the fuzzy, in writers stretching from William and Henry James, to Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein and T. S. Eliot.
My work has appeared in The Cambridge Companion to European Modernism, Modernism / Modernity, Philosophy and Literature, and the James Joyce Quarterly. In 2011-12, I was at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin to look at the James Joyce Papers. and in Spring 2013 I was a fellow at the Huntington Library in Los Angeles. In July 2013, I lectured at the T. S. Eliot International Summer School in London.