Conrad Steel, King's

Degree: PhD
Course: 1830-PD
Supervisor: Dr Deborah Bowman
Dissertation Title:

Ambient lyric: Apollinaire and the limits of the social imaginary in twentieth-century poetry


Biographical Information

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.

Research Interests

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.

I am also interested in:

  • what happened to French, British and American poetry after WWII.
  • contemporary visual art.
  • why late eighteenth-century French (and to a lesser extent British) poetry is so unpopular.
  • what English departments should look like in future.

Areas of Supervision

Part I: practical criticism; 1830-1945; 1870-the present.

Part II: practical criticism; Tragedy; Lyric; Modernism and the Short Story; Contemporary; American; Literature and Visual Culture.

I am happy to discuss dissertations on any area of twentieth-century or contemporary poetry; relations between English and French literature; or literature and sociology.

Selected Publications