Sara Marcus

2018 Ph.D. Graduate
Dissertation: "Political Disappointment: A Partial History of a Feeling"

Visiting Assistant Professor of English, University of Notre Dame

PhD, Princeton University
MFA, Columbia University
BA, Oberlin College

Sara Marcus received her PhD from Princeton in 2018. Her scholarship focuses on American and African American literature and cultural practices from the 19th century through the present day, with particular attention to gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, and performance and sound studies.

Marcus’s first book, Girls to the Front, a critical and cultural history of the 1990s punk-feminist movement Riot Grrrl, was published by Harper Perennial in 2010 and was a National Award for Arts Writing finalist. Her current book project, Political Disappointment: A Partial History of a Feeling, argues that America’s defining literary and cultural texts offer compelling accounts of disappointed aspirations. In Political Disappointment, Marcus draws on 20th-century literature, sound, and performed practices, charting recurrent rhythms of desire and nonfulfillment. By reading for disappointment, she connects key endeavors that are often considered separately—civil rights marches and 1980s theories about women’s sexuality, for instance, and midcentury feminist fiction and post-Reconstruction transcriptions of African American music. Analyzing a robust archive, Marcus’s manuscript proposes a new history of American culture, of the 20th century, and of political desire itself. The book includes discussions of W.E.B. Du Bois, Tillie Olsen, Leadbelly, Stokely Carmichael, Hortense Spillers, Audre Lorde, and Adrienne Rich.

An excerpt from Political Disappointment will appear in American Literature in early 2019 under the title “‘Time Enough, but None to Spare: The Indispensable Temporalities of Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition.”

Marcus’s essays and criticism on art, music, literature, and politics have also appeared in critical venues such as ArtforumBookforum, and Texte zur Kunst; mainstream publications including The New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, and; academic-adjacent forums such as Public BooksPost45, and the Los Angeles Review of Books; and in the books The Idea of the Avant-Garde (Manchester University Press, 2014), The Essential Ellen Willis (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), and No Regrets (n+1, 2014).

At Princeton, she was a fellow in the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities (IHUM) and a recipient of the university-wide Charlotte Elizabeth Proctor Fellowship, the Henry L. Terrie Fellowship in English, and a Graduate Summer Research Prize from the Program in American Studies. She also served as coordinator of the English department’s Twentieth Century Colloquium in 2013–15. She taught courses in nineteenth- and twentieth-century US literature at Princeton as an assistant in instruction, and she has taught courses in American literature, popular music, and creative and critical writing at the University of Notre Dame, Barnard College’s pre-college program, and the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility.

Selected Publications: 

“‘Time Enough, but None to Spare’: The Indispensable Temporalities of Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition,” American Literature (forthcoming).

“The Fiction of Bohemian NYC.” Public Books, Feb. 23, 2017.

“Untimely Feedback.”, Dec. 7, 2016.

“Durational Fashion.” Texte zur Kunst, June 2016.

“Songs by No One." New Republic, Fall 2015.