Briefly describe your research
My dissertation looks at how attraction to materiality and to nature is expressed in American poetry through the nineteenth century. I focus on a set of writers who aim in their poetry to facilitate intimate encounters with material nature in which its autonomy from the observing mind becomes a property of experience. To represent nature so that its alterity is made palpable and accessible to the subject without being compromised, writers like Margaret Fuller and Sidney Lanier experiment with a non-lyric and even anti-lyric poetics. A central aim of my project, then, is to recover a counter-tradition of American poetry which – though it addresses how poetry frames and facilitates desire – decenters the voice of the lyric subject. It is a tradition in which poems are understood not as vehicles for the expression of depth or idiosyncratic subjectivity, but as means of orientation towards the material world.
Why do the humanities matter?
In humanities scholarship, we confront the foundations of some of our deeply entrenched values and narratives. In the era of climate crisis and ecosystem collapse, the humanities provide the space and means to critique and historicize categories like the ‘natural’ and the ‘wild,’ which structure our understanding of the material world. Crucially, the humanities allow us to analyze the relationship between the representation of the material nature (in writing and in other media) and our experiences of it.
What do you look forward to this year as a Humanities Center fellow?
I am thrilled to be joining the Humanities Center in the upcoming year. While writing my dissertation, I have been working at the intersection of literary history, materialist philosophy, and the environmental humanities and I am especially looking forward to participating in the Center’s interdisciplinary community. I am excited to have the opportunity to work alongside fellows in a variety of humanistic fields and to draw on their expertise in developing my analysis of American nature-poetics.
William Bond is a PhD candidate in the English Department at Northeastern University. His dissertation, Daemonic Allure: Material Experiences in Nineteenth-Century American Poetry, examines the representation of attraction to the material nonhuman in the poetry of John Neal, Margaret Fuller, Adah Isaacs Menken, and Sidney Lanier. His research interests include American Romanticism, ecocriticism, lyric theory, and historical poetics. He received his B.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford and his M.A. in English from Syracuse University.