Dr Conrad Steel

I work on modern and contemporary literature from Britain, America, and France. My interests include poetry and poetics, the sociology of literature (especially Bourdieu), Marxism, computational analysis, and close reading.

My first book, The Poetics of Scale: From Apollinaire to Big Data (forthcoming in 2024), shows how poetic form offered a way to think about complex systems in the twentieth century. My primary current project explores the history of poetry-writing as a social practice since the Second World War, using case studies such as community publishers, writing groups, and poetry websites to investigate the uses of poetry and its distinctive role in shaping contemporary textual culture in the UK. I am also working on a translated collection of key texts from postwar French-language poetics.

 At Keble, I teach Prelims Papers 3 and 4 (literature in English from 1830 to the present).

 I did my BA and PhD at Cambridge and my MA (in French) at King's College London. Before (and to some extent during and since) my PhD, I worked on energy policy and campaigns, particularly electricity networks, which partly led to the interest in representing and managing complex systems that I explore in my first book. In 2023 I was awarded the Andrew K. Kappel Prize for Literary Criticism. This was for my article on how and why Allen Ginsberg automated his own market research job out of existence in 1955 using one of the first IBM computers, and wrote 'Howl' instead. I also sometimes write on contemporary art.