James Brophy

Honors Preceptor

Ph.D., English Literature, Boston University
(Doctoral Certificate: Teaching College Writing)
B.A., M.A., Classics and English, University of Maine

I am a scholar of 19th & 20th century British and Irish literature. Much of my work includes elements of classical reception—how Victorians and modernists inherit forms and concepts from Greco-Roman antiquity. I’ve taught courses on modernism, aesthetics, poetry, and critical methods; and I also teach Greek and Roman literature and culture (especially by way of lyric, dramatic, didactic, and epic poetry).

Why I Teach in Honors:
I love tracing concepts across cultures and time with my students. I tend to read with the philological eye I developed as an undergraduate Latin student—attending to the structure, history, idiomatics, and philosophical implications of words and phrases. W. H. Auden wrote that, when viewed philologically, “words become, as it were, little lyrics about themselves.” I’m drawn to words like irony, pessimism, gnosticism, cliché, to name a few that have inspired recent work, to find out how their implications change, and also what seems to remain always conceptually in play. Practiced sensitivity to the inscape of words and concepts helps us gain important perspective on our own institutions and ideological assumptions; it’s also fascinating and fun.

Honors Lectures:
Homer’s Odyssey (“Storycraft and the Odyssey”)
Virgil’s Aeneid (“Condit / Fervidus: Propaganda and Ambiguity”)
Homer’s Iliad (“Rage and Proleptic Elegy”) (2014-2016)

I have edited the critical volume Samuel Beckett’s Poetry with William Davies, which is contracted with Cambridge University Press for release in 2022. In addition to co-authoring the introduction, I’ve contributed a chapter on Beckett’s reception of the tradition of gnomic poetry. I’m currently at work on a monograph provisionally entitled Poetry’s Pessimism, about the influence of determinism and fatalism in modern poetry.

Articles and Chapters:
I’ve recently published articles on gnosticism in the work of WWII poet Keith Douglas (Twentieth Century Literature 66.1, 2020); on Osip Mandelshtam’s inheritance of Ovid (Journal of Translation Studies 11.3, 2018); and on Walter Pater, Roland Barthes, and literary aesthetics (Paideuma 45, 2019). I’ve contributed chapters on love in Beckett’s play Endgame (Beckett Beyond the Normal, ed. Séan Kennedy, Edinburgh University Press, 2020); and on cliché in Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent (Joseph Conrad and Postcritique: Politics of Hope, Politics of Fear, ed. Jay Parker and Joyce Wexler, Palgrave, 2021).