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Patrick Armstrong

Patrick Armstrong

Department: English

Supervisor: Dr Drew Milne

College: Corpus Christi

AHRC Subject Area: English Language and Literature

Title of Thesis: Microscopes, Microbes, and the Minuscule in Modern Fiction (1870-1940)


I completed my undergraduate degree in English at UCL (2012-15). After a year spent teaching English as a foreign language in Poland, I began an MPhil in Criticism and Culture at Cambridge. My dissertation focused on the influence of natural sciences on the representation of movement in Samuel Beckett's post-war 'Trilogy' of novels. My PhD explores a seventy-year period in which microscopy and x-ray crystallography techniques developed significantly, tracing the movement from the widely available light microscope to the high-resolution electron microscope. In outlining a historical trajectory, I examine a wide variety of sources, focusing on diverse responses to the latest scientific advances – in the novels of Proust, Woolf, Joyce and Beckett, amongst others - specifically the growing cultural awareness of the microscopic world. My project addresses the question of how access to the microscopic affects the relations of humans to the rest of nature, and the ways in which these dynamics are represented in writing. 

Other academic interests


Literature and Science 

Marxist Literary Theory 

Literature and the City 

Key Publications

'Instrumental Optics: Microscopic and Telescopic Lenses in Thomas Hardy's Two on a Tower', Thomas Hardy Journal, 33 (Winter 2017), 85-99 

Forthcoming: 'Samuel Beckett and the Sinic World', in Influencing Beckett / Beckett Influencing (Budapest: Károli Gáspár University, 2019)