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Sarah Ehlers

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Assistant Professor

Sarah Ehlers teaches and researches in modern and contemporary American literature, with a particular emphasis on poetry and poetics, the history and culture of the U.S. left, African American literature, geographies of modernity, and documentary poetry and poetics. Her writing analyzes political and innovative poetries in the United States through a hemispheric lens, tracing variegated relationships between poetic practice and movements for social justice. Her first book, Left of Poetry: Depression America and the Formation of Modern Poetics (University of North Carolina Press, Spring 2019), shortlisted for the MSA First Book Prize, returns to the Depression-era United States in order to unsettle longstanding ideas about poetry and emerging approaches to poetics. 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 leverages the college’s unique history to rethink the political stakes of institutional arts culture and the dynamics of state power that sustain humanities discourse. She is also at work on a book that examines how contemporary poets experiment with modes of archival research and practice in order to imagine radical forms of historicity and materiality. Her articles and essays have appeared in Modern Language Quarterly, Contemporary Literature, Mosaic, Against the Current, and Lineages of the Literary Left, among others.  

At the University of Houston, Dr. Ehlers offers courses in twentieth- and twenty-first century American literature, African American poetry and drama, literature and social justice movements, and working-class literature. She is active in the English department’s Poetics and Critical Studies of the Americas collectives, and she often collaborates with undergraduate humanities students through the Office of Undergraduate Research.  

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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

Selected Publications

  • Left of Poetry: Depression America and the Formation of Modern Poetics. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019. 

Classes Taught


  • Senior Seminar: Labor and Literary Studies (ENGL 4396)  
  • African American Poetry and Drama (ENGL 3364)  
  • American Literature Since 1865 (ENGL 3351) 
  • Modern American Fiction (ENGL 3353)  
  • Introduction to Literary Studies (ENGL 3301)  
  • Houston Early Research Experience (summer program)  


  • Topics in Poetics: Archiving Poetics (ENGL 7396) 
  • Special Topics: Literary Study and States of Struggle (ENGL 7396) 
  • African American Poetry (ENGL 8383)  

Research Interests 

  • Twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature  
  • Left literature and culture 
  • Poetry and poetics  
  • African American literature  
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