Joseph Harrington

Joseph Harrington
  • Professor

Contact Info

Wescoe Hall, Room 3035


My work as a literary historian has explored the way that a particular genre of literature (poetry) exists in the world – how writers and readers depict it, how they use it, what role it plays in their lives, and how it embodies their fears and desires. My first book, Poetry and the Public, examines these issues as they play out in the twentieth-century US, via debates in magazines, in essays about poetics, and in workshops and slams, as well as in the texts of poems. My current critical interest is “docupoetry” – a poetry that attempts (or purports) to depict – and inflect – historical events. I am also very interested in mixed-genre or “genre queer” writing that combines conventions of various genres or blurs the boundaries between them.

My most recent book, Disapparitions, ventures far into the paranormal and deep into the political unconscious. It is built around a lyric essay that examines the three meanings of the word “spook” in American usage (ghost, spy, racial slur) and how they converge in the mid-twentieth century (and beyond). Interleaving this are poem sequences that channel voices of the dead, decrypt mysterious shortwave broadcasts, and exhume a history of racial surveillance. Drawing upon a wide range of sources, Disapparitions is an investigation into the effects of perception, imagination, & embodiment; the powers and limits of language to decipher lived experience; and how the idea of an “other world” can shape—or end—life in this one.


US literatures, particularly post-1900; creative writing; poetry and poetics; mixed-genre writing; documentary poetry; experimental nonfiction; cultural studies; political philosophy.

Selected Publications

Books and Chapbooks

Excerpts, Articles, and Poems

  • Excerpts from "The Poem of Our Climate,"Chant de la Sirène, The Journal 4: "Climate and Poetics" (2024).
  • "My Posthumous Poems."Otoliths 54 (southern winter 2019). Web.
  • “Cotton Still Tops in Area Economy.” BAX: The Best American Experimental Writing 2016, Tracie Morris and Charles Bernstein, eds. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2017. 81-83. Print.
  • “Kansas &/or Oz, in the Poetry of Kenneth Irby and Ronald Johnson” (article). Kenneth Irby Special Issue.  Jacket2. 18 Nov. 2014.
  • “Docupoetry and Archive Desire” (article). Jacket2. 27 Oct. 2011.
  • Excerpts from Things Come On (an amneoir). Academy of American Poets web site.
  • Excerpt from No SoapThe Collagist 14 (2010). 
  • Excerpt from Poetry and the Public. Poetry and Cultural Studies: A Reader, Ed. Maria Damon and Ira Livingston. Urbana, IL.: Univ. of Illinois Press, 2009. 266-284.
  • “Is Hegemony Leadership?” Who’s the Boss?: Leadership and Democratic Culture. Ed. Wil Verhoeven and Hans Krabbendam. Amsterdam: Vrie Universiteit Press, 2007. 17-26.   
  • “Why American Poetry Is Not American Literature.” American Literary History 8:3  (1996): 496-515.
  • Poems in The Rumpus, Colorado Review, Eleven Eleven, Tarpaulin Sky, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of forms, WSQ, and other periodicals.

Awards & Honors

  • Conger-Gabel Teaching Professorship, 2013-2016
  • Millay Colony resident fellow, 2013
  • Pushcart Prize Nominee, 2011
  • Hall Center for the Humanities Creative Work Fellow, Univ. of Kansas, 2010
  • Finalist, Howard Foundation Fellowship, 2010
  • Walt Whitman Chair in American Culture Studies, Fulbright Distinguished Chairs Program, University of Groningen, The Netherlands, 2005
  • Hall Center for the Humanities Research Fellow, Univ. of Kansas, 2000
  • Mayers Fellow, Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif., 1999
  • Mortar Board Outstanding Educator Award, Univ. of Kansas, 1998