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Sarah Ehlers

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Assistant Professor

Sarah Ehlers specializes in modern and contemporary American literature, with an emphasis on poetics, African American literature, and radical/left culture. Her first book, Left of Poetry: Depression America and the Formation of Modern Poetics (University of North Carolina Press, Spring 2019), returns to the Depression-era United States in order to unsettle longstanding ideas about poetry and emerging approaches to poetics. By bringing to light a range of archival materials and theories about poetry that emerged on the thirties left, Left of Poetry reimagines the historical formation of modern poetics in ways that challenge existing frameworks for understanding the relationships among poetic form, political commitment, and historical transformation. Her in-progress second monograph, Black Mountain Modernity, offers an original account of Black Mountain College that builds on the historical and theoretical concerns of Left of Poetry. Examining how Black Mountain artistic and pedagogical experiments were formed in the geopolitical landscape of the 1930s and 1940s—and situating the college in a nexus that links political and artistic movements in the U.S., Germany, and Mexico—the book reveals the stakes of institutional arts culture for left politics and shows how these institutions operate in dialogue with state and imperial power. She is also at work on a book titled The Poetics of Other Archives that examines how contemporary poets experiment with modes of archival research and practice in order to imagine radical forms of historicity and materiality.

At the University of Houston, Dr. Ehlers offers undergraduate and graduate courses in twentieth- and twenty-first century American literature, African American poetry and drama, and working-class literature. She is active in the English department’s Poetics collective, and she collaborates with undergraduate humanities students in the Houston Early Research Experience Program. She is also a member of the editorial board for Unsung Masters, an annual book series that republishes out-of-print writers in cooperation with Pleiades Press, Copper Nickel, and Gulf Coast

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  • Ph.D., English, University of Michigan
  • M.A., English, University of Connecticut
  • B.A., English and Women’s Studies, Illinois State University

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Selected Publications


Left of Poetry: Depression America and the Formation of Modern Poetics (University of North Carolina Press, 2019)

 Articles & Book Chapters:  

 “Late Modernisms, Latent Realisms: The Politics of Literary Interpretation.” American Literature in Transition, 1940-1950. Ed. Chris Vials. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

“Jorie Graham’s Passion for the Reel: The Lyric Subject Encounters the Image.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 50.2 (Summer 2017).

 “What’s Left of Lyric: Genevieve Taggard and the Invention of Song.” Lineages of the Literary Left. Ed. Howard Brick, Robbie Lieberman, and Paula Rabinowitz. Maize Books (an imprint of University of Michigan Press), 2015. 

“Mourning the Modernist Undead: Robert Duncan’s Company and the Felt Silence of the Lost Generation.” Contemporary Literature 55.1 (Spring 2014).

“Making It Old: The Victorian/Modern Divide in Twentieth-Century American Poetry.” Modern Language Quarterly 73.1 (March 2012).

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