Assistant Professor, Program of Liberal Studies
University of Notre Dame

I'm a literary critic specializing in twentieth-century British, Irish, and American prose and poetry. I teach in the Program of Liberal Studies, an interdisciplinary "great books" program at the University of Notre Dame, where I am also a fellow of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.

I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I studied at the University of King's College and Dalhousie University. After pursing a M.A. at Queen's University, I completed my doctorate at the University of Cambridge. Before arriving at Notre Dame, I held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Toronto and the University of King's College.

My research focuses on modernism and its aftermath, and I'm particularly interested in the relationship between literary style and the book's own material form. My first book, Wastepaper Modernism, examines the recurrent images of destroyed and ravaged print that haunt the modern novel. My current research looks at the curious afterlives of incomplete literary works and failed avant-garde movements.  In addition, I have published articles on topics such as Henry James and the cinema, late modernist bathos, and the wartime desire to turn books into weapons.

 

RESEARCH

WASTEPAPER MODERNISM:
TWENTIETH-CENTURY FICTION AND THE RUINS OF PRINT

Oxford University Press, forthcoming April 2021

At the same time that writers were becoming infatuated with new technologies like the cinema and the radio, they were also being haunted by their own pages. From Henry James’ fascination with burnt manuscripts to destroyed books in the fiction of the Blitz, from junk mail in the work of Elizabeth Bowen to bureaucratic paperwork in Vladimir Nabokov, modern fiction is littered with images of tattered and useless paper that reveal an increasingly uneasy relationship between literature and its own materials over the course of the twentieth century. Wastepaper Modernism argues that these images are vital to our understanding of modernism, disclosing an anxiety about textual matter that lurks behind the desire for radically different modes of communication. Having its roots in the late-nineteenth century, but finding its fullest constellation in the wake of the high modernist experimentation with novelistic form, “wastepaper modernism” arises when fiction imagines its own processes of transmission and representation breaking down. When the descriptive capabilities of the novel exhaust themselves, the wastepaper modernists picture instead the physical decay of the book’s own primary matter. Bringing together book history and media theory with detailed close reading, Wastepaper Modernism reveals modernist literature’s dark sense of itself as a ruin in the making.

UNDONE:
LATE MODERNISM, INCOMPLETION, AND THE AESTHETICS OF FAILURE

In Progress

Everybody knows that modernism was a revolutionary literary movement, one that rebelled against staid artistic practices, repressive societal conventions, and oppressive political systems. What is seldom acknowledged, however, is that most of these aesthetic and political revolutions either failed or were left incomplete: the middlebrow triumphed over the avant-garde, new methods of representation quickly became old habits, and the world revolution never arrived. Undone examines modernism’s revolutionary failures, as well as the aftermath of its failed revolutions. It considers not just unfinished literary works (either purposefully abandoned by their authors or left undone at the time of their deaths), but also those that are seemingly unfinishable (projects too grand, ambitious, or difficult for their authors to complete), as well as those that would seem to damn themselves to failure by either deliberately missing elements or self-consciously imploding into bathos, triviality, vacuity, or overt cliché.

 

PUBLICATIONS & TALKS

Full c.v. available on request

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

RECENT TALKS

“American Purgatories.” Invited Talk. Dante in America Lecture Series. University of Notre Dame. 

Fall 2021.

“Cyril Connolly’s Failed Reading.” MSA XI (Modernist Studies Association). Toronto, Canada. 

October 2019.

“Paper Bombs.” Invited Talk. Department of Comparative Literature. Pennsylvania State University, 

State College. Sept 2019. 

“Dead in the Water.” Shorlines: Flotsam and Jetsam. Invited Keynote. DAAD-Sponsored Research 

Symposium. Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge. July 2019.

“W.S. Graham’s Blanks.” MSA XX (Modernist Studies Association). Columbus, OH. November 

2018.

“Edward Upward’s Revolutionary Disappointment.” Invited Talk. Persuasion After Rhetoric. 

Symposium. University of California, Davis. April 2018.

“Edward Upward’s Regrets.” Under Surveillance in the Space Between, 1914-1945 (18th Annual 

Conference of the Space Between Society). Montréal, QC. June 2016.

“Wastepaper Modernism.” Special session on “Fiction and the Media Ecology.” MLA Convention. 

Austin, TX. January 2016.

“Revolutionary Disappointment.” MSA XVII (Modernist Studies Association). Boston, MA. 

November 2015.

“Paper Bombs.” At Home in the Space Between (17th Annual Conference of the Space Between Society). Notre Dame, IN. June 2015. Awarded annual prize for best paper.​

“Playing Dead in Party Going.” MSA XVI (Modernist Studies Association). Pittsburgh PA. 

November 2014.

“Nabokov’s Passports.” Crossing the Space Between (16th Annual Conference of the Space Between 

Society). London, UK. June 2014.

 

TEACHING

I teach a range of courses in the Program of Liberal Studies, including the Great Books Seminars, the two literature tutorials, and the senior class in Intellectual and Cultural History. I previously taught in the University of Toronto's English Department, and in the Foundation Year Program at the University of King's College.

SELECTION OF COURSES TAUGHT

  • PLS Great Books Seminars III, IV, V, & VI

  • Intellectual and Cultural History: Modernity & Its Discontents

  • Not Getting It: Approaching Difficult Art

  • Shakespeare & Milton

  • Lyric Poetry

  • Reading Ulysses

  • Modernism & the Short Story

  • Practical Criticism

 

Address

215 O'Shaughnessy Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556

Contact

jrosenbe at nd dot edu

574 631 5790

©2020 Joseph Elkanah Rosenberg