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Kelly Sultzbach

Specialty area(s)

20th Century British & American Literature, Environmental Literature, Ecocriticism, Animal Studies, Questions of Place, and Law and Literature

Brief biography

I grew up in the American Midwest, Ohio to be exact, with memories of summers camping in parks near Lake Erie.  But my intellectual “growing up” was influenced by the cultures of the East Coast and the West Coast, in states as far flung as Connecticut and Oregon.  From these places, I was offered a more global look at the world through diverse academic communities that helped me develop a value for the art of passionate conversation--where being “right” or “wrong” doesn’t matter as much as the intellectual process of engaging in honest (sometimes difficult, but always passionate) conversation about finding third solutions, better questions, and creative ideas.

My own career has taken a meandering path through lots of interests that I bring together in my scholarly research and the classes I teach at UWL.  After graduating with a B.A. in English from Yale University, I went to law school at University of California, Davis, eager to work in their Civil Rights Clinic representing prisoners.  During law school, I took a year off to do emergency-certification teaching in a struggling school district in Mississippi. After finishing law school, I spent several years at a large law firm, working in product liability litigation, with a specialty in pharmaceuticals and expert witnesses.  Yet I found myself missing the engagement with “big ideas” and the taste of teaching I got the year I spent away from law school. I began to think that perhaps the best way for me to help the cause of good in the world was to empower others to question, analyze, interpret, and ponder universal questions too. 

I had always been interested in issues of nature and place and the works of Virginia Woolf helped me think about my environment as animate, living, and speaking to me in a myriad of voices.  So, when I went to the University of Oregon, I got my Ph.D. in 20th Century British and American Literature, with an emphasis in Environmental Literature and Ecocritical theory.  Now, as we become aware that we are living in the era of the Anthropocene and re-considering our relationship with a shifting climate, the tension between economic values and conservation values, as well as new scientific verification of the richness of non-human intelligence and culture, the study of what stories we tell about our environment and animal life seems even more poignant and significant.  My first monograph book, Ecocriticism in the Modernist Imagination: Forster, Woolf, and Auden (Cambridge UP) came out in 2016 and I am currently working on a project reconsidering what 20th Century British Literature has to tell us about the way representations of nature changed radically during WWI and contributed to environmental activism which in turn prompted the passage of sweeping environmental policies in the UK after WWII.  I am particularly interested in what experiences and imaginative representations of nature motivated the enactment of laws that privileged free access and preservation over individual ownership and commercial use.  I suspect that such environmental literature might have something to teach us about what stories we need to tell in order to motivate more socially and environmentally compassionate attitudes towards climate change today.

I revel in being able to share these passions through teaching and to learn more through questions my students’ research too.  If you share any of these interests, please come see me—I would be delighted to chat.

Current courses at UWL

 Fall 2017:

ENG 204:  British Literature II (Romantics to Present) The  Country, the City, and Human Nature (3 sections)

ENG 302:  Law & Literature

In the SPRING term of 2018 I will be teaching:

ENG 110 (Introduction to Composition)

ENG 368: 20th Century British Lit.: Green Thoughts in a Grey World

ENG 387: Environmental Literature


University of Oregon, Ph.D. (2008)
UC Davis, J.D. (1998)
Yale University, B.A. (1994)

Teaching history

ENG 110: College Writing I

ENG 112: College Composition, Advanced Placement

ENG 200: Literature & the Human Experience: Modern Literature & the Animal Mind

ENG 204: British Literature II: The Country, the City, and Human Nature

ENG 311: Critical Theory: The Power of Making Meaning

ENG 368: British Lit. After 1900: Green Thoughts in a Grey World: Questions of Environment, Trauma, and the Formation of New Identities in 20th & 21st C. British Literature & Culture

ENG 372: American Literature After 1900: American Texts in Dialogue & Debate: Creating the American Story

ENG/ENVS 445: Environmental Literature from Wordsworth's "Michael" to Herzog's Grizzly Man

Research and publishing

Ecocriticism in the Modernist Imagination: Forster, Woolf, and Auden (book), Cambridge UP, 2016
“Modernist English Fiction.” A Cambridge History of Literature and the Environment. John Parham and Louise Westling, eds. Cambridge UP, 2016.
“Embodied Modernisms: Ecophenomenology and Trans-Atlantic Modernist Literature.” Understanding Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Understanding Modernism, Bloomsbury Academic Press Series, Ariane Mildenberg, Volume Editor. Invited, contracted chapter submitted.
"The Contrary Nature of Christina Rossetti's Goblin Fruits." Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism. Special Issue: "Victorian Ecology." John Parham, ed. Vol. 14, Summer 2011. 39-56.
"The Chiasmic Embrace of the Natural World in Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding."Southern Literary Journal. 42.1 (2009): 88-101.
Smith, Bennett, ed. Free Speech: A Casebook for Writers. Brian Millington, Kelly Sultzbach, Ben Waller, asst. eds. Casebook Series of the University of Oregon Composition Program. Eugene: U Oregon P, 2008.
"The Fertile Potential of Virginia Woolf's Environmental Ethic." Woolf and the Art of Exploration: Selected Papers from the Fifteenth International Conference on Virginia Woolf. (Peer-reviewed.) Helen Southworth and Elisa Kay Sparks, eds. Clemson: Clemson U Digital P, 2006. 71-77.