My PhD project traces a lineage of nineteenth- and twentieth-century poets and critics – stretching from Gerard Manley Hopkins to Geoffrey Hill – who are actively concerned with the ethical stakes of poetic language. What interests me especially is how these writers understand poetry not necessarily as an irrefutable good, but as a medium able to seduce, mislead, or disturb; and how the “density” of its language, to use Hill’s word, might implicate them in the often violent and unsettled moral worlds they lived in.
By exploring these figures, I hope to make broader connections between the particularity of poetic language and the nature of ethical knowledge. While the “ethical turn” in literary studies tended to focus on novelistic representations of moral experience, my hunch is that poetry’s sensate, temporal qualities offer a side door into philosophy, one which underscores the felt immediacy of ethical obligation. If poetry falls short of moral pedagogy, I intend to ask, what can it tell us about good and evil?
I am continuing at Cambridge after taking the MPhil in English Studies, but previously studied English and French at St John’s College, Oxford. My work has been published in Philological Quarterly and The Cambridge Quarterly.