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Prof. Josh Epstein
Prof. Josh Epstein

Josh Epstein

Exploring different ways of thinking about what a text is and what a text does.

B.A. 2003 University of Puget Sound
M.A., Ph.D. 2008 Vanderbilt University

Sometimes confusion is a good thing. Josh Epstein encourages his students in such courses as Modern British Literature and Advanced Topics in Cultural Studies to immerse themselves in what they find difficult and perplexing, rather than what they find comforting. 

“The best work comes from butting heads with tensions and contradictions and working through them in a sustained way,” notes Epstein. He particularly enjoys teaching Modernist texts because they dislocate our knowledge and assumptions; in order to understand them, students must unravel them.

He also finds that digital formats help us work through texts in non-linear ways.  The online archiving of everything from of radio broadcasts to live readings, and the ability to engage newly with richly allusive texts, give new contexts for the study of literature, and change the way we read and wrestle with text in the first place.

“T.S. Eliot expressed a lot of skepticism toward the idea that writers should merely ‘look into our hearts and write.’ Rather, Eliot argues, ‘that is not looking deep enough… One must look into the cerebral cortex, the nervous system, and the digestive tracts,’” explains Epstein. “I think Eliot had the right idea. We should study texts not only to experience the effects they have on us but to break down those effects and think about how they are artistically, culturally, historically constructed.” 


Sublime Noise: Musical Culture and the Modernist Writer (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014)
"The Antheil Era: Pound, Noise, and Musical Sensation." Textual Practice 28.6
"Joyce's Phoneygraphs: Music, Mediation, and Noise Unleashed." James Joyce Quarterly 48.2
"Neutral Physiognomy: The Unreadable Faces of Middlemarch." Victorian Literature and Culture 38.1

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-- Rachel Palmer