Cory Austin Knudson

Cory Knudson
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Ph.D. Candidate

I am a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. My work focuses on theories and representations of decomposition in Franco- and Anglophone literature, continental philosophy, and the contemporary environmental humanities. My dissertation, The Decomposing Body: Modernist Writing and the Ecology of Decay, traces how decomposing bodies (human and otherwise) are conceived and written about from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries. Reading decomposition as both a central figure and paradigmatic form of the Modern, I argue for a rapprochement of close reading, literary theory, and Anthropocene studies in approaches to understanding and representing our current climate catastrophe.

Prior to coming to Penn, I received my BA in Modern Literary Studies with Highest Honors and BA in Philosophy with Honors from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where I graduated Summa cum Laude. During my time working for the Dickens Project at UCSC, I was tasked with archiving the Ada B. Nisbet collection of nineteenth-century books and manuscripts, which began my fascination with archives, archiving, and archival scholarship. Today I gratefully indulge these interests as an archival processor at the Kislak Center for Special Collections at Penn. I’ve written about many of the collections I have been able to make available for researchers on the Special Collections Processing at Penn blog.

I have recently taught transdisciplinary courses such as “The End is Coming: Apocalypse in Film and Literature,” “World Literature,” and “Freaks, Creeps, and Cheats,” all of which I helped develop and establish in the Penn curriculum. At Penn I also co-founded and served as President of the Intensive Reading Group in Theory and Philosophy from 2016 to 2019, and coordinated the Comparative Literature Program’s Theorizing speaker series from 2016 to 2017. 

I write for the independent literary review Full Stop, where my reviews of academic titles and books in translation appear regularly. My own translations have been published in Viewpoint and Doublespeak. My co-translation, with Tomas Elliott, of Georges Bataille’s unpublished preliminary manuscript to The Accursed Share, entitled The Limit of the Useful, is currently under advance contract with MIT Press. My essay “Seeing the World: Visions of Being in the Anthropocene” is forthcoming in Environment, Space, Place.