St John's College Oxford
Dr George Potts

Dr George Potts

Association with Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship in English

Biography

I studied for my BA, MA and PhD degrees at University College London, for which I was awarded an AHRC Research Preparation Masters Studentship and a Wolfson Postgraduate Scholarship in the Humanities. After completing my doctorate, I taught at UCL, Queen Mary University of London and on the University of Virginia’s study abroad programmes, before beginning my Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship in the Faculty of English at Oxford in 2019.

What inspired you to pursue your subject?

As a sixth form student with a nascent interest in literature, I was very fortunate to be selected for a summer school in English at the University of Cambridge, on which I was introduced to the difficulty and exhilaration of reading modern poetry through discussions of Elizabeth Bishop, T. S. Eliot, Geoffrey Hill and Walt Whitman, among others. I still remember the absorbing experience of first encountering Whitman’s Civil War verse in Drum-Taps and Eliot’s reimagining of the London Blitz through Dante’s Inferno in Four Quartets, which was heightened by working through this unfamiliar material in dialogue with a small group of peers. I left the programme with a greatly expanded sense of what constitutes poetic language, form and subject matter, which I’ve continued to develop in my studies, research and teaching ever since.

Research Interests

I work primarily on twentieth- and twenty-first-century British and American poetry, with particular interests in modernism and its legacies as well as questions of influence and intertextuality.

The project on which my Fellowship focuses is titled Charlie Chaplin Among the Poets and examines the filmmaker’s far-reaching relations with poetry and poets over the past century. As cinema’s foremost global icon, Chaplin has inspired many poets in diverse and complex ways – from delight at his slapstick clowning to admiration of his political activism and regard for his sentimental storytelling – while he also met with major writers in his lifetime and styled himself as an avid reader of verse. Using archival research to uncover Chaplin’s biographical relationships with poets and drawing on both literary criticism and film studies to analyse their work’s mutual influence, the project seeks to open up new perspectives on writers including Claude McKay, Marianne Moore, Gertrude Stein and Louis Zukofsky, as well as on the life and work of film’s most famous comedian.

I am also currently completing a monograph based on my PhD thesis, Cleaving Together: John Milton and Geoffrey Hill, which explores the relationship between these two writers from across the centuries. Approaching Hill’s imaginative and intellectual debts to Milton from a range of perspectives – literary form, politics, sexuality and theology – the study elucidates a major influence on Hill’s writings, situates this within British and American poetry more widely and makes an important contribution to our understanding of Milton’s modern reception history. Other forthcoming publications include a journal article examining Hill’s poetry in relation to Jean Cocteau’s films as well as a book chapter on city writing in Britain from 1900 to 1920.

Teaching

Twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature, with particular interests in modernist poetry and its legacies, influence and intertextuality, the modern history of literary criticism, twentieth-century literary London, film and television studies.

Recent Publications