Hannah SullivanBA MA (Cambridge), MRes (London Consortium), Phd (Harvard)
Tutor in English; CUF Lecturer in English
Hannah took up her post at New College in 2012. She received her Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Harvard in 2008 and, before coming to Oxford, she was an Assistant Professor in the English department at Stanford University. She also has a degree in Classics from Trinity College, Cambridge, and an MRes. in Cultural Studies from the London Consortium.
In college, Hannah teaches literature in English from romanticism to the present.
Hannah’s research interests are in two main areas: modernism and theories of modernism, and various issues in literary stylistics, including textual genesis, revision, prosody, and the history and ideology of poetic form. She has also done some work on the classical tradition in English, on electronic texts and books, and on theories of authorship.
Her book The Work of Revision (forthcoming 2013) asks why twentieth-century and contemporary writers place such faith in revising drafts, and how different types of revision produce determinate aesthetic effects. It studies the genesis of writings by Henry James, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, and Allen Ginsberg, among others. Modernism was the golden age of the typewriter, and the book shows how "typing up" (using the typewriter for remediation rather than first draft composition) leads to textual instability and the desire for revision. In particular, revision by hand on typescript is likely to produce acts of dramatic excision (cancelling a whole passage or page) and addition (interleaving more and more material). In the postwar period, writers have learned to write short or long from the first draft, to be minimalist or maximalist from the beginning. In digital environments revision is effectively free, always possible. Paradoxically, this seems to encourage writers to revise not more but less strenuously, because there is no danger of anything ever becoming fixed in the wrong final form. We retain the notion of the draft, the revised version, the tracked change, when composing on the computer and disseminating electronically, but this may be simply medial nostalgia -- like the fetish for refurbished typewriters.
Hannah is now beginning a new project, The Pattern Behind the Arras, on formal conservatism and prosodic innovation in English poetry from Wordsworth to the present. She wants to find out whether the idea that poetic form has ideological meaning -- an idea as old as Plato -- is robust and, if so, how we would recognize what that meaning is. In the most formally innovative and scattered period in English poetry, what is at stake in the careful recycling of an older form, like the sonnet? How long does it take for a new form -- the "lyrical" ballad, the "In Memoriam" Stanza, vers libre, syllabics, the 12-syllable-plus line -- to be attributed a meaning, by both new poets and critics? How do poets choose their forms? One of the interventions this project hopes to make is into an old debate about the tension (or not) between avant-garde poetics and rebarbatively conservative politics in the period of high modernism. The book will also look at the issue of technical virtuosity and its renunication, at the deliberate unpatternedness of "late style" in some modern poets (Auden, Eliot), and the dialectic between formal tightness and slackness.
The Work of Revision (Harvard: Harvard Univerity Press, forthcoming 2013)
'Autobiography and the Problem of Finish', Biography 34.2 (2011).
'Modernist Excision and Its Consequences'. The Papers of the Bibliographic Society of America 102.4 (2008).
Poetry published in magazines including Poetry Quarterly, The Houston Literary Review, Magma, The Rialto, Envoi, The Guardian Unlimited, Leviathan, Poetry Wales, Prop Magazine, P. N. Review, Stand, and Reactions.
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