Robert Österbergh

doctoral/PhD student at Department of English

Visiting address:
Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3 L

Postal address:
Box 527
751 20 Uppsala

Also available at

My courses


MA English (Uppsala), MA International Economic History (Stockholm).
Dissertation: In Pursuit of Collective Life: American Neo-Avant-Garde Poetry and
the Claim of Art (preliminary title)

Research Interests

20th-century American poetry; critical theory and aesthetics; capitalism and culture; ecocriticism and the environmental crisis.

Teaching Experience

English Department. Literature (a-level)
Center for Environment and Development Studies (Cemus) (2000-2006).
"Humanity and Nature"
"Global Civil Society"
"Environment and Development Studies: Theory and Analysis"
"The Global Economy: Environment, Development, and Globalization"
"Ecocriticism: Nature in Literature".
Dissertation synopsis
This dissertation takes as its point of departure a familiar problem: the deep-seated sense of crisis that has long beset modernist, critical (avant-garde) artistic practice. Drawing on recent work in the domain of aesthetic theory and on the ”aesthetic turn” in literary studies, I explore how contemporary American neo-avant-garde poetry grapples with this crisis, manifested as a fundamental aesthetic and societal uncertainty deriving to a considerable extent from the dual fact that there is no general concept as to what counts as art or poetry, and that poetry appears largely bound to a life of social marginalization and obscurity. In place of the entrenched valorization in scholarly and critical discourse of acts of negation and difference as inherently potent and subversive, the dissertation highlights their epistemological and political shortcomings and the necessity for dialectically interweaving them with what I term moments of determinacy. Such moments embody values, at once aesthetic and social, which transcend sheer negativity while never effortlessly bracketing or effacing it. What transpires in the poetry is the fraught, critical negotiation of indeterminacy with forms of determinacy as a means of confronting the sense of crisis and wresting social meaningfulness. Thus, the dissertation is placed along two interconnected axes. First, along the axis of contemporary American poetry scholarship (20th-century and beyond). Here, I seek to inflect the field’s prevalent historiography that aligns poetic vanguardism with notions of indeterminacy by exposing its conceptual limitations and empirical bias. Second, the dissertation is placed along the axis of literary and critical theory. Here, the objective is to think beyond the politcal and social shortcomings of what has long been one of the predominant theoretical paradigms, poststructuralism, and the preeminence it grants to the politics of difference.


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