Dr Sarah Kennedy, Downing



Biographical Information

Sarah Kennedy is the RJ Owens Fellow in English at Downing College. She has given lectures and talks in the UK, US, Australia, and Italy, and has appeared on Sky Arts speaking about the poetry of T. S. Eliot. In 2017 she was a Visiting Fellow at Pomona College, Claremont, California. Her essay, "'We reason of these things with a later reason': Plain Sense and the Poetics of Relief in Eliot and Stevens" was awarded the John Serio Award 2019 at the 2020 MLA. The prize is awarded by a committee from the Board of The Wallace Stevens Journal, and recognises the best essay published in the year's two issues. 

Sarah has honours degrees in Political Science and English Literature, and Law from the University of Melbourne, Australia. She was awarded a Rae and Edith Bennett Travelling Scholarship to undertake her doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge. After completing her Ph.D. (St. John’s, 2012), she held a Research Fellowship at Downing College, Cambridge, from 2013 to 2017.

Her book T. S. Eliot and the Dynamic Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2018) follows in the tradition of histories of the Romantic and Victorian poetics of originality, but focusses on the twentieth-century legacy of those histories and their interrelation with parallel fields of knowledge. It charts the relations between metaphor and creativity in T. S. Eliot's poetry and criticism through their affinities with discursive developments in 'new physics', optics, colour theory, cognitive psychology, and anthropology. 

You can see her talk 'Elisabeth Frink: Touching Magic' at AFTERLIFE: A Symposium on the Life and Work of DAME ELISABETH FRINK (2018) here.

She is currently writing a contemporary novel as well as working on a revisionist close reading primer called The Shadow on the Page: A Field Guide to Close Reading. This project seeks to answer the need for a holistic yet accessible orientation into the practices of literary close reading on the page and in the world.

A further project is tentatively titled The Self Made Strange: Landscape and Self-Estrangement in Postwar Lyric Poetry. This study explores metaphors of place as the key to the processes of transmission and assimilation (as well as the vertical pressure of literary influence) that generate creative and ethical tensions within the lyrical selfhood of a collection of exemplary mid-century poets.

Research Interests

Twentieth-century and contemporary Anglophone poetry, early and high modernism, metaphor, narrative in film and prose fiction, nature-writing, vibrant materialism, and ecopoetics, the pelagic imaginary, the energy unconscious, trauma, literary motherhood, the uncanny, folklore, neopaganism and the new weird/wyrd, literary self-conception, originality, and allusion. She is especially intrigued by questions of poetic influence and the literary afterlives of poets. She is also interested in the postcolonial literatures of the Pacific, including Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia, and in trans-regional encounters between these literatures and modernist diasporas.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

Sarah teaches for Practical Criticism and Critical Practice across all three years and 7b (English Literature and its Contexts 1870-the present) at Part I, and supervises dissertations across a range of papers. She is not currently taking on graduate supervision. She has taught at university level for over a decade and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). In 2020 Sarah was a finalist in the CUSU Student-Led Teaching Awards. At graduate level, Sarah teaches within the MPhil in Multi-disciplinary Gender Studies offered by the Centre for Gender Studies. She is a visiting lecturer and seminar leader with the T. S. Eliot International Summer School.

Selected Publications


Articles and Chapters