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Selected Development Project
Project Title

Whitman on the Grid: Surveillance, Democracy and the Autobiographical Moment in Contemporary American Literature

Principal Investigator Dr Jeffrey Michael CLAPP
Area of Research Project
Language Education, Literature and Linguistics
Project Period
From 01/2017 To 06/2019
  1. To identify the autobiographical moment as a prominent feature of contemporary American literature
  2. To show how the autobiographical moments in contemporary literature explore the changing relationship between surveillance and democracy
  3. To examine the symmetry between practices of surveillance and practices of contemporary democracy, which both work with experiences of appearance and representation
  4. To assess the relationship between mass surveillance and democratic society with the use of insight from sociology, political science, and critical theory
Methods Used

This project makes use of the traditional tools of the literary humanities: interpretation, contextualization, and synthesis. It mediates relationships among literary texts, archival materials, concepts from the social science and critical theory, and historical data in order to provide a synthetic overview of some aspects of contemporary American society.

Summary of Findings
It mediates relationships among literary texts, archival materials, and concepts from the social sciences in order to provide a synthetic overview of some aspects of contemporary American society. These understandings are produced and contested within literature, because the literary work is an important site for the conceptualization of private and public selves.
This project contests oversimplifications of the interpenetrating roles of literature, surveillance, democracy, and information technology in contemporary life.
Selected Output

Publications associated with this project so far include the following:

2018 “Robert Lowell, Richard Nixon, and Surveillance Culture.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language. [Forthcoming]

2018 “Hong Kong’s Edward Snowden / Edward Snowden’s Hong Kong.” In Cultural Conflict In Hong Kong: Angles on a Coherent Imaginary, eds. Jason Polley, Vinton Poon, and Wee Lian-Hee. Palgrave 2018. [Forthcoming]

2017 “Surveilling Citizens: Claudia Rankine, from the First to the Second Person.” In Spaces of Surveillance: States and Selves, eds. Susan Flynn and Antonia Mackay. Palgrave 2017. 169-184.

Biography of Principal Investigator

Dr Jeffrey Michael Clapp is Associate Head and Assistant Professor in the Department of Literature and Cultural Studies at The Education University of Hong Kong. He teaches and writes about twentieth and twenty-first century literature in English. He first earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago, then earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the English Department of the University of California, Irvine. His dissertation research was about literature and national security during the Cold War. Dr Clapp’s research interests include literature in English, literature in the United States, , life-writing, law and literature, literary history, and critical theory.

Funding Source

Early Career Scheme