Sarah Dowling


Assistant Professor

Certificate, Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, University of Pennsylvania
M.A. English and Creative Writing, Temple University
Ph.D. English, University of Pennsylvania

Office: UW1-249
Phone: 425-352-5292
Email: dowlings@uw.edu
Mailing: Box 358530, 18115 Campus Way NE, Bothell, WA 98011-8246


My teaching covers the fields of modern and contemporary literature, gender and sexuality studies, ethnic studies, and creative writing and poetics. I include creative-critical exercises in all of my courses, and in introductory courses especially, I teach foundational skills like close reading through imitation and translation. Together, my students and I write through poems like Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “When de Co’n Pone’s Hot,” translating his language into our own colloquial English, and translating his references to fit our own experiences. We end up with new poems like “When You’re Eating Your Chow Kueh Teow,” or “Fri. Nite at BK.” We also read multiple versions of texts, particularly recordings, in order to investigate multiple strategies for reading. When we observe, for example, that in Linton Kwesi Johnson’s poem “Inglan is a Bitch,” language that is inflammatory on paper seems exhausted or resigned in performance, we can revisit the written text and discuss its form, its politics, and how these are carried into and transformed by the live version. Such exercises develop students’ abilities to read the smallest details of texts, a crucial skill for critical and creative practices alike. More importantly, these detailed engagements help us to understand that creative practices are critical, and that critical practices are creative — the two cannot be separated.

Recent Courses Taught

BIS 206 Engaging Literary Arts
BIS 207 Introduction to Creative Writing
BIS 455 Literature and Sexuality
BCWRIT 511 Poetics Seminar: Writer’s Research


My first book, Security Posture, exemplifies my approach to poetry: using techniques of disruption, permutation, and erasure, it examines the cultural valuation of romantic couplehood. Drawing from a broad range of source texts including corporate and banking websites, newspapers, and advertisements, I question the safety and goodness attributed to this social formation. The term “security posture” typically refers to the level of risk to which a system or organization is exposed. In this book, however, stray letters and misplaced commas reveal the extent to which tropes of security are indeed postures; broken words suggest vulnerability to violation. I am currently at work on a second project, Hinterland B, which explores urban hinterlands as both gathering place and metaphor for peripheral identities and ideas. Excerpts from this project appear in the anthology I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women, and in journals such as P-Queue and The Windsor Review. Additionally, a chapbook of performance writings based on pop songs, DOWN, is currently in development.

My research extends the considerations of intimacy and of difficult coalitions undertaken in my creative work. My scholarly book project, Remote Intimacies: Multilingualism in Contemporary Poetry, examines the turn to languages other than English in contemporary Anglophone poetry. I argue that other languages signify both the foreignness of, and an intimacy with the pure products of colonialism in the Americas: defunct writing systems, dead languages, murdered slaves, immigrant childhoods, and present-day enmities. In contradistinction to the radical impersonality and stance of revolt commonly associated with experimental artistic practice, I trace a constellation of poets from North and South America and the Caribbean who traffic in unfashionable emotions such as nostalgia, sympathy, and compassion. Although contemporary multilingual poetry derives its forms from radical traditions, it presents a crucial challenge to the critical paradigms scholars have derived from modernist aesthetics: rather than the bold charge forward of an avant-garde, multilingualism in contemporary poetry trails behind, lingering over intimacies with and desires for what is temporally or geographically remote. Articles adapted from this project recently appeared in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies and Canadian Literature. I also have critical work forthcoming in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society and the Journal of Medical Humanities.

Selected Publications

Critical Works

“How lucky I was to be free and safe and at home": Reading Humor in Miné Okubo’s Citizen 13660.” Signs (forthcoming 2013).

“States of the Field: Anxiety and the Turn to Identity Politics in Contemporary Poetics.” Co-author, with Julia Bloch. Jacket2 (forthcoming 2012).

“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. Special Issue: Sexuality, Nationality, Indigeneity. 16.1-2
(2010) 191-206.

Creative Works

Security Posture. Snare Books: Montreal, 2009.

Works in anthologies

“Hinterland B.” I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women.
Eds. Laynie Brown, Caroline Bergvall & Vanessa Place. Los Angeles: Les Figues, 2012.

“Hinterland B.” Philadelphia Innovative Poets, 2003-2011. Eds.
John Krick & Ryan Eckes (forthcoming 2012).

Works in journals

Windsor Review (2013, forthcoming); P-Queue (2010); Action, Yes! (2009); the ixnay reader 4 (2009); The Capilano Review (2009); West Coast Line (2007); Cue: A Journal of Prose Poetry (2007); Descant (2007); EOAGH: A Journal of the Arts (2007); How2 (2006); In/Vision (2005); Taproot III (2004).

Translations in journals

1913: A Journal of Forms (2012); Fence (2012); World Literature Today (2011).

Editorial and Curatorial Projects

International editor, Jacket2, 2010-present.

Co-Curator, Emergency Reading Series, Kelly Writers House, University of
Pennsylvania, 2008-2012.

Principal organizer, North of Invention: A Festival of Canadian Poetry Kelly Writers House, University of Pennsylvania, January 20-21, 2011; Poets House, New York City, January 22-23, 2011.