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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles



I graduated in English from St Catharine's College, Cambridge in 2011, and then worked for four years (in the public sector, then at a charity) before coming back to university. I did my MA in French literature and culture at King's College London, where I wrote my dissertation on the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and the novelist Georges Perec.

My PhD research is on the history of worldmaking tactics in twentieth-century French and American poetry. Just before the First World War, the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire claimed to have invented a new kind of poem, where 'the poet records a kind of ambient lyricism'. The fantasy of poetry as a direct product of the background noise, bridging the gap between the social world as overwhelming experience and as orderly structure, has had a long afterlife. But over the course of the century, as the gaps and erasures of social mediation became harder to ignore, that fantasy became proportionally more fraught. Drawing from recent work in Marxist poetics and affect studies, my thesis traces that development by exploring how the work of Apollinaire in the 1910s became influential for three later poets in the US: Louis Zukofsky in the 1930s, Allen Ginsberg in the 1950s and Alice Notley in the 1970s.

Department: English
Supervisor: Dr Deborah Bowman
College: King's
AHRC Subject Area: English
Title of Thesis: Ambient lyric: Apollinaire and the limits of the social imaginary in twentieth-century poetry
 Conrad  Steel