Dr Hunter Dukes



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I became a Junior Research Fellow at Peterhouse after finishing my PhD at Cambridge. Sometime before that, I completed an MPhil in Criticism & Culture at Cambridge and a BA in English at Pomona College.

Research interests

My research broadly considers the shifting borderlines between humans and the nonhuman world in modern and contemporary literature and culture. While I have worked mainly on Irish writers (Joyce, Beckett, Heaney), I have also published essays and given talks on a variety of figures and ideas, including: metaphors of sacrifice in Cold War cinema, the connections between molecular biology and philosophy in the 1960s and 1970s, and the impact of railway signage on literary considerations of toponyms. 

I am currently revising my PhD thesis into a monograph, tentatively titled The Autographic Imagination: Signature and Literature after James JoyceMy project examines a twentieth-century lineage of writers and poets concerned with signatory inscription. By this, I mean the writing, tracing, branding, embossing, tattooing, or engraving of the name of a person or place onto various kinds of surfaces, as well as other forms of marking that approximate autography. My contention is that James Joyce’s novels demonstrate an explicit, underexplored concern with signature and the different imaginary investments (erotic, legal, preservative) that accompany its presence in the world. In Joyce’s wake, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, and Don DeLillo all produce texts that both engage with Joyce’s novels and think carefully about the potential of the signature as a material object.

A second book project — Spheres of InfluenceVessels, ContainmentGlobalisation — examines how metaphors of containment and actual containers shaped twentieth-century literature and culture. I am particularly interested in the way various kinds of containers from the history of science, medicine, art, and law are mobilized as metaphors of the body. Conversely, I trace how abstract containers touch down upon the world through literature, film, and visual art. While there has been research on the imaginative possibilities of boxes in early modern literature, we are lacking an account of post-1900 containers, or, how political, psychoanalytic, and scientific notions of containment influenced the period’s cultural output. This project grows out of three journal articles, unrelated to my dissertation, that I published during my PhD. These articles roughly correspond to three draft sections (on modernism, the body, and technological containers, Cold War media and containment, and the afterlife of the ‘noosphere’ in twentieth-century philosophy and environmental thought).


Journal Articles

'Tirades of Abuse: Marryat's Jacob Faithful and Joyce's "Counterparts"', Notes and Queries, forthcoming September 2018.

'Heaney, Joyce: Namings and Nation', Essays in Criticism 68.2 (April 2018), 234-258.

'Toponyms, Transportation, and the Etymological Imagination', Modernism/modernity Print+ 3.1 (March 2018).

'Beckett's Vessels and the Animation of Containers', Journal of Modern Literature, 40.4, 75-89.

'Ulysses and the Signature of Things', Humanities (special issue on Joyce, Animals, and the Nonhuman), 6.3, article 52.

'Samuel Beckett and the Fantasy of Lithic Preservation', Irish Studies Review (British Association for Irish Studies Essay Prize), 25.1, 24-41.

'Assembling the Mechanosphere: Monod, Althusser, Deleuze and Guattari', Deleuze Studies, 10.4, 514-530.

'The Binding of Abraham: Inverting the Akedah in Fail-Safe and WarGames', Journal of Religion & Film, 19.1, article 37.

Essays and Reviews

'The Eyes of Statues', The Brooklyn Rail, September 2017

'The Way Things Go', Critical Quarterly, 57.3, 107-111.

'In an Empire of the Dead', The Los Angeles Review of Books, July 2015.