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Paul Cockburn

Research Postgraduate

Research Postgraduate in the Department of English Studies


I began my PhD in the Department of English Studies in 2019 under the supervision of Professor Timothy Clark and Dr. Marc Botha. My project is centred around conceptions of 'nature' in the literature of New York City (including, for example, Edith Wharton, John Dos Passos, Betty Smith, Frank O’Hara, and Audre Lorde).

I ask what we talk about when we talk about nature in the concrete jungle. One of my aims is to develop a way of reading urban texts that is sensitive to the work of conceptual metaphor in crossing the domains of the natural and the artificial in order to reveal the ways in which cities are implicated in an ecological web. I am interested in the intersection of conceptions which view the city as an artifice opposed to nature and of conceptions which view the city as a natural expression of the extended human phenotype. In short, I am interested in how the relationship between humans and the non-human in urban texts reflects and constructs our ideas of nature and the natural.

My research interests are interdisciplinary. My current project draws upon ecocriticism, cultural theory, philosophy and literature, visual arts, urban writing, horticultural writing, architecture, uncertainty, as well as the work of Bruno Latour, Manuel DeLanda, and Timothy Clark, for example.

My PhD is Arts and Humanities Research Council funded through the Northern Bridge Consortium.

I graduated with distinction from my MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Durham in 2018. My dissertation on ‘The Scepticism of T. S. Eliot and James Joyce’ was supervised by Professor Jason Harding. In this work, I examined the influence of philosophic scepticism – particularly of David Hume and of F. H. Bradley – on the creative literature of Eliot and Joyce, interrogating both the formal and thematic functions of uncertainty. My BA at Bangor University allowed me to study for a year at Pace University in New York City.

I worked for 3 years as a bookseller and maintain an interest in bookselling and the text as an economic object.

I have taught on both 'Introduction to the Novel' and 'Introduction to Poetry' at Durham.

I welcome any inquiries about my research.

Twitter: @_PaulCockburn

Conference Presentations

'Nature and Agency in the Creative Literature of New York City’, at Cities in a Changing World: Questions of Culture, Climate and Design, organised by AMPS, City Tech, City University of New York, 16-18 June 2021.

'The Tiger Who Came To Manhattan: Reading 'Nature' in Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City', Public Lecture given at Late Summer Lecture Series 2021, Durham University.


ENGL1061 Introduciton to the Novel 21-22

ENGL1071 Introduction to Poetry 20-21

Funding and Awards

Northern Bridge Consortium Doctoral Award 2019-23


Convener, Inventions of the Text seminar series, Department of English Studies, Durham University (2020-21)