Joe Phillips

Dr Joe Phillips

Personal profile

Research interests

My primary research interests are centred around representations of fluidity, mobility, liminality, paradox, contradiction, ambiguity, and indetermiancy in the late nineteeth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first century literature and visual arts of Europe and America. I am fascinated by the political and social implications of fluidity, and much of my writing is dedicated to a broadly Wittgensteinian interrogation of language. Where Wittgenstein tends to aim at the 'clarification' or 'elucidation' of words and their meanings, however, I enjoy showing how these 'clarifications' are inevitably inflected by inescapable contextual factors (including other words), and as such are fundamental indicators of the deeply ambiguous nature of language.

My doctoral thesis attends to questions of the relationship between ambiguity and the ambiguous cultural and aesthetic movements which have come to be known collectively as "Modernism". The paper intends to show that Modernism and ambiguity are to some degree inseparable and mutually sustaining; to this end, I will be conducting close research on several texts by some of the most iconically "Modernist" writers in the Anglophone canon, including Joseph Conrad, Ford Maddox Ford, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Samuel Beckett. My readings will focus not simply on moments of purely lexical or structural ambiguity, but will also try to extend into more conceptual readings of ambiguity: for example, I intend to investigate the impact of Woolf's shifting, subjective, and ambiguous perspectives on the formation of character in Jacob's Room. I also intend to research androgyny in relation to Joyce's Ulysses: I will argue that Joyce presents a mostly dichotomous understanding of the 'active, passive' Leopold Bloom; I will aim to evince more epicenic construals of Bloom, in which both his body and mind become ambiguously, as opposed to dichotomously, related to gender.


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