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Dr Nicholas Gaskill


Dr Nicholas Gaskill received his PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010, and his BA in English from Birmingham-Southern College in 2003. In 2014-15, he was a fellow at the Penn Humanities Forum. He joined Oriel College in 2018 as the new Fellow in American Literature, and he is Associate Professor of American Literature in the Faculty of English Language and Literature.

Before coming to Oxford, Dr Gaskill taught in the English Department at Rutgers University and, before that, in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago.

Research Interests

Dr Gaskill works on American literature from the nineteenth century to the present, with special interests in aesthetics, critical methods, and the relation between literature and philosophy (especially pragmatism).

His first book, Chromographia, looks at the ways that U.S. writers imagined color experience between 1880 and 1930. It reads a diverse array of writers – from Stephen Crane and Charlotte Perkins Gilman to L. Frank Baum and Nella Larsen – in light of the material history of chromatic technologies and all the things that bright color came to stand for at the turn of the twentieth century: commodity culture, “civilization,” racialized sensation, avant-gardism, the perceptual lives of small children, and much else besides.

He also has an abiding interest in American pragmatism, both as a historical phenomenon and as a resource for thinking about literature and criticism. One branch of this research has focused on the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, not a pragmatist per se, but an important figure in the reception and reinvention of pragmatism over the past several decades. Other strands include essays on the idea of aesthetic form (as opposed to other types of form), on pragmatist theories of experience and their relevance to methodological debates in the literary humanities, and on the uses of metaphysics and ontology in contemporary theory.

Dr Gaskill is currently in the early stages of writing a book about the ideas of reality and aesthetic construction that have shaped American literature, especially of the past hundred years. Tentatively titled Reality in America, the book will focus on novels and poems that explicitly question the relation between literary artifice and the metaphysically real, and it will ask what literary writers can teach us about the task of building a common world.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles
  • “The Articulate Eye: Color-Music, the Color Sense, and the Language of Abstraction,” Configurations 25.4 (fall 2017): 475-505.
  • “The Close and the Concrete: Aesthetic Formalism in Context,” New Literary History 47.4 (autumn 2016): 505-24.
  • “Red Cars with Red Lights and Red Drivers: Color, Crane, and Qualia,” American Literature 81 (December 2009): 719-45. **Awarded the Norman Foerster Prize for the best essay published in American Literature in 2009 (given by the American Literature Section of the MLA).**
  • “Experience and Signs: Towards a Pragmatist Literary Criticism,” New Literary History 39 (winter 2008): 165-83. **Reprinted in American Aesthetics Today: Theory and Practice, eds. Walter Gulick and Gary Slater (SUNY Press, forthcoming 2019)**
  • “‘The Light which, Showing the Way, Forbids It’: Reconstructing Aesthetics in The Awakening,” Studies in American Fiction 34 (autumn 2006): 161-88. **Excerpted in The Awakening: Norton Critical Edition, Third Edition, ed. Margo Culley (New York: W. W. Norton, 2018): 309-13.**
Book Chapters
  • “Language and Psychology,” in A Cultural History of Color in the Age of Industry, ed. Alexandra Loske, vol. 5 of A Cultural History of Color (London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2019).
  • “Literature and the Performing Arts,” with Sarah Street and Joshua Yumibe, in A Cultural History of Color in the Modern Age, eds. Sarah Street and Anders Steinvall, vol. 6 of A Cultural History of Color (London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2019).
  • “Learning to See with Milton Bradley,” in Bright Modernity, eds. Regina Lee Blaszczyk and Uwe Spiekermann, in the German Historical Institute’s “Worlds of Consumption” series (Palgrave, 2017).
  • “The Habit of Art: Whitehead, Aesthetics, and Pragmatism,” in Experience and Reality: Thinking with Whitehead and American Pragmatism, ed. Brian G. Henning, William T. Myers, and Joseph John (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015).
  • “Introduction: An Adventure of Thought,” co-authored with A.J. Nocek, in The Lure of Whitehead, eds. Nicholas Gaskill and A.J. Nocek (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2014): 1-40.
Other Essays
  • “Speculatieve kritiek: Stengers en de literatuurwetenschap,” a Dutch translation of my essay, “Speculative Criticism: On Stengers and Literary Study,” nY #32 (January 2017). English version published online.
  • “Of Primitives and Primaries,” Cabinet Magazine 61 (spring-summer 2016): 34-41.
  • Review of The Colours of the Past in Victorian England, ed. Charlotte Ribeyrol in Etudes anglaises 70.1 (janier-mars 2017): 115-18.
  • Review of Steven Shaviro’s The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) in ALH Online Review, Series VII, published August 2016 (1,429 words).
  • “American Literature and the Composition of Experience,” Los Angeles Review of Books (14 February 2014). Review of Paul Grimstad’s Experience and Experimental Writing: Literary Pragmatism from Emerson to the Jameses (Oxford UP, 2013).
  • “What Difference Can Pragmatism Make for Literary Study?”, American Literary History 24 (summer 2012): 374-89.