Greetings, web traveler. You have reached the webpage of Josh Epstein, Assistant Professor of English at Portland State University. Try to contain your excitement.
Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, coming of age at the height of the Elway Era and working the occasional stint slinging java at the Tattered Cover Book Store, I graduated from the University of Puget Sound, where I briefly majored in music composition and theory before moving into the much more forgiving territory of English literature. I spent the bulk of my 20s (tempus fugit) in Music City USA, where I earned an M.A. and Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University, serving as a graduate fellow of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities; and then worked as a Senior Lecturer and faculty academic advisor. I also picked up some light experience in copyediting and proofreading, thanks to which I was later able to index my own book, which took 84 years. (That said, if you find typos on this website, there is no need to email to let me know.) In 2010, I moved to the idylls of Santa Barbara, CA, where I served for two years as an ACLS Fellow at UCSB, working with the Center for Modern Literature, Materialism, and Aesthetics and teaching classes in 20th-century British literature, urban modernism, media theory, the modern short story, Joyce, Stoppard, and literary/musical adaptations. From 2012-2014 I was a member of the faculty at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi. I have since returned to the Pacific Northwest as a member of the Portland State University English Department. Various teaching materials can be found here.
My first book addresses the intersections among noise, literature, music, and Frankfurt Schoolish critical theory. I argue that noise operates as a symptom of art’s economic and social condition: both writers and composers, in other words, think about noise as the point where their autonomy as artists breaks down and the material/social value of their art becomes audible.Focusing on writers such as James Joyce, E.M. Forster, Edith Sitwell, T.S. Eliot, Theodor Adorno, and Ezra Pound, as well as composers such as George Antheil, William Walton, and Benjamin Britten, this project merges modern literary and cultural studies with the so-called “new musicology.”
I am also working on a project that addresses the cultural politics of the British Arts Council, the BBC Third Programme, the “Mass Observation” movement, and the 1951 Festival of Britain: large-scale investigations of how “High Culture” might redress flagging post-war morale, a trenchant economic recession, contracting imperial influence, and general malaise among the British populace. As part of this project I have worked my way into a new obsession with the British documentary filmmaker, amateur sociologist, surrealist, and anthologist Humphrey Jennings.