Daniel Braun studies 20th and 21st century literature, with special emphasis on poetry and poetics. His dissertation, Mistakes Were Made: Modern Poetry’s Bad Conscience explores the question of the mistake you can’t take back in Anglo American poetry and criticism, between World War I and II. Chapters on Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and W.H. Auden argue that the work of these modernists is shaped by a common, anti-experimental impulse: a fear of poetic mistakes, and a disbelief in the liberal democratic project that would forgive them, by way of interpretation. Mistakes Were Made considers the aesthetic response of the poets in its affective variety (in the forms contempt, defensiveness, and contrition take), and alongside the rise of the New Criticism, a movement concerned less with the close reading and understanding of poetry, than with the possibility, and catastrophe, of misreading.
Additional research and teaching interests include modern political philosophy (in particular, theories of conservatism, liberalism, and radicalism), psychoanalysis, and the history of linguistics. A separate project, tentatively titled Conspiracies of Theory, draws on work in progress within this last area of research. Taking as its point of departure Ferdinand de Saussure’s pursuit of anagrams hidden in the texts of the Indo European poets (a wild conjecture, celebrated by literary theorists of the 1960s as the disproof of structuralist linguistics), the project examines the nature of intellectual infamy in the 20th century, by tracking the rise and fall of esoteric and crackpot ideas.