Dr Sarah Kennedy, Downing



Biographical Information

BA and LLB from the University of Melbourne, Australia. I came to Cambridge on a Rae and Edith Bennett Travelling Scholarship for my Ph.D. (St. John’s, 2012), supervised by Prof. Adrian Poole. In 2013 I took up a Research Fellowship at Downing, where I was also Director of Studies for Part II 2014–15.

Research Interests

Twentieth-century and contemporary Anglophone poetry, and include early and high modernism, metaphor, nature-writing and ecopoetics, the pelagic imaginary, literary self-conception, originality, and allusion. I am especially intrigued by questions of poetic influence and the literary afterlives of poets. I am 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.


My book T. S. Eliot and the Dynamic Imagination (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2017) 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. 

Current project

My current research explores metaphor as the active principle underlying 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 three exemplary mid-century poets: Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop and Judith Wright


Areas of Graduate Supervision

I supervise on the Practical Criticism paper for Parts I and II; the Part I 7B Paper English Literature and its contexts 1870 to the present; and on the Postcolonial paper (Pacific Region) for Part II, as well as individual Part I and II dissertations. 

Selected Publications

T. S. Eliot and the Dynamic Imagination (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), forthcoming

‘Elizabeth Bishop’s Fugitive Empathy’, in Elizabeth Bishop & Contemporary Poetry, ed. Jonathan Ellis (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), forthcoming
‘Let these words answer: Ash-Wednesday and the Ariel Poems’, in The New Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot, ed. Jason Harding (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016)
'“Where’s home, Ulysses?” Judith Wright in Europe 1937', Journal of Commonwealth Literature (August 2015), DOI: 10.1177/0021989415589833
‘The “unknown, remembered gate”: Four Quartets as spiritual biography’, Literature  & Aesthetics 18 (1) June 2008, 84-97