Dr Sarah Kennedy
Fellow in English

Fellow Development Ambassador, Director of Studies in English (Part I)

BA (Melbourne), LLB (Melbourne), PhD

I am a Fellow, Development Ambassador, and Director of Studies for English Part I at Downing. I completed my BA (Hons.) and LLB (Hons.) at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and my PhD at St John's College, Cambridge.

My research interests fall within twentieth-century and contemporary Anglophone poetry, and include early and high modernism, metaphor, nature-writing, 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 2018 book on metaphor and the imagination in the work of T. S. Eliot follows in the tradition of histories of the Romantic and Victorian poetics of originality, but focuses 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 Eliot's poetry and criticism through their affinities with discursive developments in 'new physics', optics, colour theory, psychology, and anthropology.

I am currently working on a book 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 tensions within the work of three exemplary mid-century poets: Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop and Judith Wright. 

I have also written articles on modern and contemporary writers including Elizabeth Bishop, Wallace Stevens, Russell Hoban, and Paul Kingsnorth.

I teach for Part I, Papers I (Practical Criticism and Critical Practice) and 7b (English Literature and its Contexts 1870-the present); and for Part II, Papers (Practical Criticism and Critical Practice) and 13 (Postcolonial and Related Literatures in English).  I have supervised dissertations on (inter alia) Djuna Barnes, Elizabeth Bishop, Keri Hulme, Witi Ihimaera, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Darcey Steinke, Claude Mackay, Evelyn Waugh, Patrick White, and Virginia Woolf.


T.S. Eliot and the Dynamic Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2018).


'Elizabeth Bishop's Fugitive Empathy', in Reading Elizabeth Bishop: An Edinburgh Companion, ed. Jonathan Ellis (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019).

‘“We reason of these things with later reason”: Plain sense and the poetics of relief in Eliot and Stevens’, Wallace Stevens Journal, Vol 42, Number 1 (Spring 2018): 99–116.

‘Elisabeth Frink: Sculptor of living forms’ in Larger than Life: Dame Elisabeth Frink (Heong Gallery, Downing College, Cambridge), November 2017.

‘Let these words answer: Ash-Wednesday and the Ariel Poems’, in The New Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot, ed. Jason Harding (Cambridge: CUP, 2016).
'“Where’s home, Ulysses?” Judith Wright in Europe 1937', Journal of Commonwealth Literature, published online before print August 6, 2015, doi: 10.1177/0021989415589833.
‘The “unknown, remembered gate”: Four Quartets as spiritual biography’, Literature  & Aesthetics 18 (1) June 2008, 84-97.


Review of Kelly Elizabeth Sultzbach, Ecocriticism in the Modernist Imagination: Forster, Woolf, and Auden, Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism, 2018.

Review of Franny Moyle, Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde, The Eagle 94, 2012, 188–90.

Review of Jennifer Maiden, Intimate Geography, The Poetry Book Society, Poetry Portal, April 2012.