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Sarah J. Townsend

Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese

Office Phone: (814) 865-4252


  1. New York University (PhD)
  2. University of Iowa (BA)


I received my PhD from New York University and came to Penn State after completing a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities at UC-Berkeley and an American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellowship at UC-Santa Barbara.

In broad terms, my work deals with the connections among culture, capital, and politics from the nineteenth century to the present. Most often, I explore this dynamic through a focus on theater and/or other media in Latin America, though both my research and teaching interests are comparative in nature. I am the co-editor (with Diana Taylor) of Stages of Conflict: A Critical Anthology of Latin American Theater and Performance, and my other publications include articles in journals such as Cultural Critique, Modernism/Modernity, and Revista iberoamericana. I recently finished a book manuscript titled The Unfinished Art of Theater: Avant-Garde Intellectuals in Mexico and Brazil (forthcoming with Northwestern UP). In Summer 2016 I spent two months in Manaus, Brazil beginning research and fieldwork for a second project that revolves around the Teatro Amazonas, an opera house built during the height of the Amazonian rubber boom of the late nineteenth century and now the site of an annual opera festival. I have also have forthcoming work related to my interest in sound studies and the history of audio technologies. In collaboration with my colleague Judith Sierra-Rivera I coordinate the Hemispheric Americas lecture series at Penn State.

At the graduate level, my recent and upcoming courses include Brazil and Comparative Modernisms; Culture, Capital, and the Global Jungle; Race, Performance and Possession in the Americas; Missing Pieces: A Comparative Genealogy of Latin American Theater; and Latin American Modernisms and (Old) New Media. Undergraduate courses include Avant-garde Primitivisms; Through the Looking Glass: Race in the United States and Brazil; The International Amazon; Portuguese for Romance Language Speakers; Media and the Mexican Revolution; and Literature and Slavery in the Americas, as well as classes on theater and performance.