Portrait of Dr Will Norman

Dr Will Norman

Reader in American Literature and Culture

About

BA (Nottingham), DPhil (Oxon) 

Will Norman is a scholar of 20th-century American literature and culture. He has taught at Kent since 2008. He has been a Fulbright scholar at Yale University and a visiting research fellow at the University of Sydney. He is the author of two monographs, Transatlantic Aliens: Modernism, Exile and Culture in Midcentury America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), and Nabokov, History and the Texture of Time (Routledge, 2012). Will is currently a Leverhulme Research Fellow, working on his project “Complicity in Post-1945 American Literature.” 

Research interests

Will Norman’s research interests are broadly in the literature and culture of the mid-20th-century and post-war eras. They include the novel, the history of ideas, the visual arts, Marxism, modernism, mapping, and hard-boiled fiction. 

His current research project is on the idea of complicity in post-war literary and intellectual history. It asks how works of literature, from highbrow fiction to essays and crime stories, responded to the aesthetic challenge of representing states of complicity, and traces how they participated in shifting debates about race and the nature of individual responsibility in the era of post-war liberalism. As a part of this project, in 2019 he has co-edited a special issue of the journal Comparative Literature Studies on complicity after 1945.

Will’s previous book, Transatlantic Aliens, asked what happened to modernism in the United States after World War Two, using a transatlantic frame to analyze the work and careers of European writers, artists and intellectuals who migrated to America in the midcentury period. The book shows how exilic figures from C L R James and Theodor Adorno to Hannah Arendt and Saul Steinberg transformed the experience and practice of alienation into a positive resource for confronting, criticizing and coping with a reconfigured post-war landscape. 

His first book, Nabokov, History and the Texture of Time, examined the fiction of Vladimir Nabokov, analysing the author’s engagement with different ideas of time in the context of the historical upheavals he lived through, such as the Russian Revolution, the Holocaust and Cold War. Will also co-edited the collection of essays, Transitional Nabokov (Peter Lang, 2009). 

Will has a strong interest in the literary history of American crime fiction, and has written various articles on the genre. These focus on the development and function of hard-boiled style, the instability of crime genres in the cultural field and the transatlantic exchanges that have shaped the evolution of crime fiction. 

He also works on the interrelation of literature and the visual arts, and in 2020 co-edited a special issue of The European Journal of American Culture on “The Cartographic Imagination: Art, Literature and Mapping in Post-War America.” This issue followed a conference he co-organized on this topic at the University of Kent’s Paris Centre for Arts and Culture in May 2018, funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Supervision

Will Norman has supervised PhD students to completion working on “Dark Age” graphic novels in the 1980s and 90s; on the representation of addiction in mid-twentieth-century American drama; and on mid-twentieth-century Los Angeles as a cultural frontier. He is currently supervising students working on gender and medicalization in Cold War fiction; on New York modernism; and on addicted women in post-1960 American fiction. Please contact him if you would like to discuss a potential PhD project relating to any of his research interests. 

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