Greetings, web traveler. You have reached the webpage of Josh Epstein, Associate 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 occasionally slinging java at the Tattered Cover Book Store, I graduated from the University of Puget Sound, where I briefly majored in music 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.
In 2010, I moved to the idylls of Santa Barbara, CA, where I worked 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, Joyce, Stoppard, and literary/musical adaptations. After spending two years as a faculty member at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, I returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2014 to join the Portland State University English Department, where I recently earned tenure. Various teaching materials can be found here.
My first book addresses the intersections among noise, literature, music, and aesthetic theory. I argue that modernist writers and composers treat noise as a symptom of art’s economic and social condition—as the point where the material and 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 literary and cultural studies with the so-called “new musicology.” (Largely for my own amusement, I also created a Spotify playlist to accompany the book.)
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.