Hannah Brooks-Motl



Research Interests: 

20th century Anglophone & American literatures; intellectual & cultural history; poetry and cultural poetics; spatial theory; media studies; creative writing


  • Articles: "From the Middle-Distance: Sylvia Townsend Warner’s War Pastorals,” forthcoming in Modernism/Modernity.
  • Solicited chapters: In the Air: Essays on the Poetry of Peter Gizzi (Wesleyan, 2017) and Flower Power: The Cambridge Introduction to British Literature 1960-1980 (Cambridge, 2018).
  • Criticism and reviews: Bookforum, The Chicago Review, The Kenyon Review, LitHub, The New Republic, and on the Poetry Foundation website.
  • Poetry collections: M (The Song Cave, 2015) and The New Years (Rescue Press, 2014)


My dissertation project considers the cultural politics and social history of a literary idea: the pastoral. While the city tends to dominate cultural and literary histories of the mid-20th century, I argue that this period also saw a resurgence of interest and investment in pastoral criticism, experiment, and literature. Setting countryscapes in relation to urban forms allowed writers to develop sophisticated arguments about emerging norms of social organization, and to challenge political and cultural economies linked to rapacious technological progress. Bringing together human geography, moral philosophy, and cultural and literary history, I read the oeuvres of prolific but nearly forgotten figures such as Sylvia Townsend Warner, Paul Goodman, and Richard Brautigan (among others) as “positively pastoral.” I aim to accent the usefulness of the mode to writers invested in social transformation yet leery of rupture. Obscure, willful, anarchic: pastoral presents an unruly and unread counter-history to the last century’s obsessions with utopia.

I earned my BA from Macalester College, MLitt from the University of St. Andrews, and MFA from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. I’m currently poetry editor for Chicago Review and have worked as a student assistant in the acquisitions department at the University of Chicago Press. Since 2014 I have been a student of Duncan dance and an ensemble member of Duncan Dance Chicago. With Ingrid Becker, I have collaborated on numerous performances exploring Duncan’s movement philosophy and poetic language.

Teaching Experience: 

As TA: Digital Storytelling; Approaches to Theater, Ancient to Renaissance; Introduction to Poetry (University of Chicago)

As Instructor: Freshman Composition and Advanced Poetry Writing (UMass-Amherst); Beginning Poetry Workshop on “Location” (University of Chicago)