Kevin Spencer

I graduated with a BA (hons) in English and an MA in English from the University of Alberta. I completed a second MA in Theory and Criticism at Western University in London, Ontario, the culmination of which was a thesis called "Swearing: Force and Language." In that thesis, I asked why and how swearing became a semi-legitimate form of public expression in the North American state politics, and I also attempted to theorize what swearing is--a theory that led me to reject semiotic models of language and attempt to recuperate expressive models of language that flourished in from the 17th to 19th Centuries.

From 2008 to 2015, I lived in South Korea where I taught English as a second language to adults, first at a private company and then at Korea University (Sejong Campus). This experience shaped my approach to teaching both writing and speaking as I realized that technical grammatical and lexical mistakes were far less important than conceptual coherence when it comes to clear communication.

Duke PhD
I started a PhD in English at Duke in 2015. Given my mixed background in English literature and Continental philosophy, Duke has suited me well in terms of facilitating research that is humanistic in focus without being rigidly disciplinary. I have developed a keen interested in Ordinary Language Philosophy (Ludwig Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, Stanley Cavell) and philosophies of the self in the 20th Century. My dissertation concerns the Franco-American existentialist literary tradition with a focus on the motif of murder.

Current Research Interests

  • The modernist-realist debate(s) in 19th and 20th Century fiction.
  • Philosophy that deals in the first person, mainly Ordinary Language Philosophy (Wittgenstein, Austin, Cavell) and phenomenology.
  • Ethics and literature
  • The novels of Patricia Highsmith (among other writers)

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Contact Information

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