Library Fellow, September 2020 – June 2021
Project Title: Remote-Control Culture: Science, Minds, and Magical Thinking in the Work of Arthur Koestler
Annabel Williams is a literary scholar specialising in twentieth and twenty-first century literature in English. Her research interests include modernism, travel narratives, war and political writing, and cognitive literary studies. She holds a DPhil in English from the University of Oxford (awarded 2018), and is preparing for publication a monograph that builds on her doctoral research, exploring how late modernist writers responded to the loss of material and metaphysical homes as a result of geopolitical crises in the 1930s and 1940s.
Project at IASH
Annabel’s research at IASH focuses on the work of the Hungarian British writer and intellectual Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), and draws on his archive housed at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections. The project has two key aims: firstly, to establish a historicised account of Koestler’s controversial investigations into science and parapsychology, and so to frame a distinctive cultural moment of thinking about cognition. Secondly, it will look at Koestler’s fiction from a literary aesthetic perspective, examining its concern with remote control and the ‘annihilation of distance’ in Cold War contexts. This work on Koestler will feed into Annabel’s new project that seeks to theorise remoteness (particularly of minds both human and machine). Taking its cue from contemporary concerns around AI and a hypothesised artificial general intelligence, the project asks how cognitive and personal autonomy are to be understood in an age where the distance between minds, machines and bodies is under constant re-evaluation.
‘Hearing the Dead’, in On Commemoration: Global Reflections upon Remembering War, ed. Catherine Gilbert, Kate McLoughlin and Niall Munro (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2020)
‘Fantasias on national themes: Fantasy, Space and Imperialism in Rebecca West’, Twentieth-Century Literature (forthcoming, December 2020)
‘“Vagabond-language scrawled on gate-posts”: locating home in Evelyn Waugh’s travel writing’, Textual Practice, 32 (2018), 41-58
‘The Pilot’s Periplus: Ezra Pound, Cyril Connolly and the Forms of Late Modernist Travel’, Modernist Cultures, 12 (2017), 275-296
‘A Conversation with Martin Stannard and Barbara Cooke’, Exchanges, 4 (2016), 1-13