SaraSarah Dowling
Phone: 416-585-4425
Office: Northrop Frye Hall , Room 234.

My research and teaching focus on language politics, settler colonialism, and contemporary writing. I am especially interested in poems written between and across languages. In my first scholarly book, Translingual Poetics, I argue that such works deepen the linguistic density of other literatures in order to refute the easy equivalencies of formal legal equality and the familiar narratives of a meritocratic, colorblind present. The primary goal of my scholarship is to show how relevant and exciting this seemingly obscure kind of poetry can be: I suggest that texts by Myung Mi Kim, Layli Long Soldier, M. NourbeSe Philip, and others respond to the state’s coercive forms of clarity with critical dissonance. They ask us to listen beyond the status quo in order to hear what is excluded from our linguistic common ground.

My current book project puts the question of “ground” at the center of analysis, in order to think about the ways in which contemporary poetry, performance, and protest respond to and theorize dispossession. In this project I trace a recurrent figure in contemporary literature and art: the body on the ground. I am interested how these bodies perform and theorize relationships to land that are intimate, physical, and situated. While my work in this area is very much ongoing, my hunch is that in asserting physical closeness with land, ground, or a particular place, these bodies (and the works they are a part of) register the effects of dispossession while also asserting relationships to territory that can neither be captured in legal terms, nor extinguished in legal proceedings.

In addition to my scholarly practice, I am also a poet. I’ve published two books and several chapbooks of poetry, and I am actively committed to numerous poetry communities. My current poetry project, Entering Sappho, combines archival research into the history of Sappho, WA, a no-longer-extant town on the Olympic Peninsula, with experimental translations of Sappho’s poetry. My work as a poet is closely connected to my research and teaching, and I enjoy working with students whose projects combine the creative with the critical.

Teaching Interests:

Literary theory; contemporary poetry and poetics; translation theory; contemporary Indigenous literatures; American literature; Canadian literature; gender and sexuality studies; feminist and queer theories and methodologies; cultural studies; creative writing.

Recent and Forthcoming Publications:


Translingual Poetics: Writing Personhood under Settler Colonialism. (Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 2018.)

Refereed Articles and Book Chapters:

“Queer Poetics and Bioethics.” Cambridge Companion to Twenty-First Century American Poetry. Timothy Yu, ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Forthcoming 2020).

“Japanese Incarceration, Settler Colonialism.” Asian American Literature in Transition, 1940-1965. Victor Bascara and Josephine Nock-Hee Park, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press. Forthcoming 2019).

“Rewriting These Sorry Statements: Appropriation, Apologies, and Indigenous Poetics.”

Contemporary Literature. (Forthcoming.)

“Elimination, in the Feminine.” Interventions. Special Issue: Terrorist, Refugee, Casualty: Extrajudicial Bodies of the New Empires. (Forthcoming.)

“‘How lucky I was to be free and safe and at home’: Reading Humor inMiné Okubo’s

Citizen 13660.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 39.2 (2014). 299-322.

“They Were Girls: Animality, Disability and Coloniality in Bhanu Kapil’s Humanimal.”

American Quarterly. 65.3 (2013) 735-755.

“Persons and Voices: Sounding Impossible Bodies in M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!Canadian Literature. 210/211 (2012) 43-58.

“And through its naming became owner”: Translation in James Thomas Stevens’s ‘Tokinish.'” GLQ. 16.1-2 (2010) 191-206.