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Name: George Cox

PhD: American and Canadian Studies

Thesis Title: Platformalism and the Poetics of Platform Literature


Thesis Description:

Over the past decade, authors have begun to explore the potential of platform literature, an emergent genre of electronic literature that is devised for, published on and distributed through online platforms, most commonly social media. In late 2019, Rupi Kaur, the pre-eminent practitioner of “instapoetry” (a portmanteau of the platform “Instagram” and “poetry”), was named by The New Republic as the writer of the decade. Kaur’s short, aphoristic lines of sentimental apostrophic verse accompanied by a line drawing fit perfectly within the square boundary of the Instagram upload, and circulate via likes and recommendations by design. Multimodal literary works of platform literature such as this translate the structural features of the platforms they are published on into strict textual poetics that delimit a work’s meaning potential. The raison d’être of platform literature incunabula is to explore the expressive potential of rigid digital forms: for instance, the 280 characters of the Tweet, the participatory comments section of a YouTube video, the moments of engagement in an interactive film on Netflix, or the tiled wall of the Instagram feed.

Yet, by describing the works of poets like Kaur as instapoetry – or literature published on Twitter as “Twitterature” and poetry on YouTube as “YouTube poetry” – we risk fetishizing their particular modality on online platforms in lieu of reckoning with them as historical objects within literary traditions of the novel, short story, or poem. We must develop a suitably media-specific approach, whilst also noting and modelling patterns between the poetics of platform literature and their print precursors. I propose platformalism, a descriptive formalist analysis of platform-instantiated texts, and by using representative examples from across differing platforms, I show how contemporary authors translate particular platform features into textual poetics. By highlighting similar technological poetics in print works, I illustrate how the emergence of platform literature is a synthesis of continuation and innovation.

Thesis Structure:

Section One 

Relational Poetics

  • Chapter 1 - Analogue Antecedents: Dazzling Collectives in Print
  • Chapter 2 - Digital Descendants: Dazzling Collectives on Twitter
Section Two

Database Poetics

  • Chapter 3 - Analogue Antecedents: Bards in the Flesh and in Print

  • Chapter 4 - Digital Descendants: Bards on YouTube
Section Three

Flow Poetics

  • Chapter 5 - Analogue Antecedents: Navigating Print Interactive Fiction
  • Chapter 6 - Digital Descendants: Navigating Digital Interactive Fiction


Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Dr. Graham Thompson (UON)

Dr. Anthony Hutchison (UON)


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

Conference Papers:


  • ‘Since these were only words, they tasted like excellent dark chocolate’: Scatology, Sex and Superficiality in the novels of Jonathan Franzen – “American Stuff”: American Literature Graduate Symposium, University of Cambridge. 14 May 2016.

  • ‘Interesting to the Manufacturer, the Dealer and the Smoker’: Resituating Whitman’s Three Young Men’s Deaths in British Smoking Discourse – 9th Annual International Whitman Week Symposium, University of Exeter. 4 June 2016.


  • 'A System of Sobbing Barter': Representations of the Internet in Contemporary American Literature - DigitalCulture, University of Nottingham, 20 April 2018.

  • 'Cats have small hands!': Whitmanic 'Becomings' on YouTube - 11th Annual International Whitman Week Symposium, TU Dortmund University, 28 May - 3 June 2018.

  • 'Quicksilver Creatures': The Internet and Emersonian 'Becomings' in Jennifer Egan's Look at Me and 'Black Box' - The Literary Self: from Antiquity to the Digital Age, University of Edinburgh, 4 - 5 June 2018.


  • 'Archived Bards: The Double Life of Performance Poetry on YouTube' - Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association National Conference, Washington D.C, 17 - 20 April 2019.

  • 'The Cave of Time' - Show and Tell session, Digital Cultures Research Network Retreat, Riverbank House, Matlock, 10 July 2019.

  • 'the feels on the bus go round and round': Performance Poetry, Community and YouTube Comments Sections - TMI: Sharing and Surveillance, University of Birmingham, 19 July 2019.
  • 'Whitman's Legacy in Viral Poetic Advertising'Walt Whitman International Festival, Walt Whitman Birthplace, New York, 9 - 11 August 2019.

  • 'post(literary)critique' - Researching Digital Cultures: Past, Present and Future! Centre for Digital Cultures, University of Birmingham, 7 November 2019.

  • 'From Cadillacs to the Cretaceous: "Choose Your Own Adventures" and American History' - British Association of American Studies (BAAS) Postgraduate Conference 2019, British Library (London), 6-7 December 2019. 

  • 'Playing Deliberately: Walden in Videogames' - British Association of Nineteenth Century Americanists (BRANCA): 4th Annual Symposium 'Scaling the Nineteenth Century', University of Nottingham / Nottingham Trent University, 16-17 December 2019.


  • Roundtable participant at Digital Cultures and Speculative Environments - Centre for Digital Cultures, University of Birmingham, 5 February 2020.

  • 'Platformalism and Performance Poetry on YouTube' - New Poetries—New Poetics? Cultural and Aesthetic Transformations of American PoetryUniversity of Konstanz14-15 February 2020.

  • 'Cigars in My Pocket: Walt Whitman and the Liverpudlian Tobacco Industry' - 65th BAAS Annual Conference, University of Liverpool, 16-18 April 2020. (Cancelled due to COVID-19)

Public Engagement:


  • New Perspectives - Scaling the Sublime: Art at the Limits of Landscape, Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham. 15 June 2018. Talk on Martin John Callanan's artwork A Planetary Order (Terrestrial Cloud Globe).


  • "Wrong Paths: A Short History of Choose Your Own Adventures" Public lecture as part of the Late Summer Lecture Series held by READ (Research English at Durham). Alington House Community Association, Durham. 18 September 2019.

Other Activities:


  • 'Posthuman Ethics, Pain and Endurance,' convened by Professor Rosi Braidotti. Utrecht Summer School, Universiteit Utrecht. 20 August - 24 August 2018. (Equiv. to 2.0 ECTS).

Event Organization

I co-organized with David Young the inaugural Digital Cultures Research Network Academic Retreat held in July 2019 at Riverbank House (Matlock, Derbyshire).

I am co-organized the 2020 Digital Cultures conference at the University of Nottingham (cancelled due to COVID-19).



Cox, George. 'Event Review: Student-Led Midlands3Cities American Studies Retreat, 22nd – 29th June 2018' US Studies Online, 22 August 2018.

Cox, George. 'A Short History of Interactive Narratives, or Flow Fiction' Podcast, READ: Research in English at Durham, 3 January 2020.

Cox, George. (2020) “Archived Bards”, C21 Literature: Journal of 21st-Century Writings. 8(1). doi:


During the 2019 spring semester, I was a Teaching Associate for the UG American and Canadian Studies Year 1 course 'American Literature and Culture 2: Since 1940'.


Prizes and Awards:

Graduate School Travel Prize (awarded 2019)


Other Research Interests:

  • Nineteenth Century American Literature, in particular Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Transcendentalism
  • Contemporary American Fiction and Poetry
  • Digital Cultures




University email address:



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