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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. In addition to Spanish and Portuguese, I also work with materials in French, Italian, and German, and once upon a time I spent two years studying Yoruba. My book The Unfinished Art of Theater: Avant-Garde Intellectuals in Mexico and Brazil was published by Northwestern UP in July 2018, and I am also the co-editor (with Diana Taylor) of Stages of Conflict: A Critical Anthology of Latin American Theater and Performance. Other publications include articles in journals such as Cultural Critique, Modernism/Modernity, Revista Hispánica Moderna, Journal of Lusophone Studies, and Modern Drama, as well as an essay in the collection The Modernist World. 

For the last three summers I have been conducting research in Manaus, Brazil - an international Free Trade Zone - for a second book project called Opera in the Amazon: Culture, Capital, and the Global Jungle. This project revolves around the Teatro Amazonas, an opera house built at the height of the Amazonian rubber boom of the late nineteenth century and now the site of an annual opera festival. Among my articles forthcoming or in progress are one that deals with a Brazilian opera about the Amazonian "iara" (a siren-like figure), which was adapted from a poem by an Italian ethnographer; and an essay on culture in the city of Manaus from 1870 to 1930 for a volume of Cambridge UP's forthcoming series Transitions in Latin American Literature. 

At Penn State, I coordinate the Hemispheric Americas lecture series. My teaching includes graduate and undergraduate courses conducted in Portuguese, Spanish, and English. 


Graduate seminars:

  • Brazil and Comparative Modernisms (x-listed with Comparative Literature)
  • Culture, Capital, and the Global Jungle
  • Missing Pieces: Latin American Theater and Performance
  • Latin American Modernisms and (Old) New Media
  • Race, Performance, and Possession in the Americas (x-listed with Comparative Literature)

 Undergraduate Courses:

  • Avant-garde Primitivisms
  • Through the Looking Glass: Race in the United States and Brazil
  • The International Amazon 
  • Portuguese for Romance Language Speakers
  • Mexi/Cali Noir
  • Media and the Mexican Revolution
  • Luso-Brazilian Theater Workshop

The Unfinished Art of Theater: Avant-Garde Intellectuals in Mexico and Brazil (Northwestern UP, 2018)

Co-editor with Diana Taylor, Stages of Conflict: A Critical Anthology of Latin American Theater and Performance (U of Michigan P, 2008)
Peer-Reviewed Articles and Essays:

“Money Mazes, Media Machines, and Banana Republic Realisms” (Forthcoming in American Literary History)

“The Siren’s Song; or, When an Amazonian Iara Sang Opera (in Italian) on a Belle Époque Stage” (Under review for a special issue of Latin American Theatre Review on Brazil in Spring 2019)

 “The Flight of the Bat: Theatrical (Re)production and the Unevenness of Modernism’s World Stage” (Forthcoming in a Print-Plus cluster of the journal Modernism/Modernity titled ‘Modernism on the World Stage’) 

“The Spectral Stage of Édouard Glissant’s Monsieur Toussaint.” Modern Drama 61.4 (Winter 2018): 501-525

“Oswald de Andrade’s Os condenados and the Decay of the Amazonian Aura.” Journal of Lusophone Studies 3.2 (Fall 2018): 104-124

“His Master’s Voice? A Hemispheric History of Phonographic Fictions.” Revista Hispánica Moderna 70.2 (December 2017): 197-216 

“Modernism’s Unfinished Stage: Theatre in Latin America.” In The Modernist World. Ed. Stephen Ross and Allana Lindgren. New York: Routledge, 2015. pp. 417-425

“Radio / Puppets, or the Institutionalization of a (Media) Revolution and the Afterlife of a Mexican Avant-Garde.” Cultural Critique 91 (Fall 2015): 32-71

De sobremesa, crónicas ‘revestidas de galas’ y el escenario ausente del modernismohispanoamericano.” Revista iberoamericana 232–33 (July–December 2010): 939-956

“Total Theater and the Missing Pieces of the Brazilian Avant-Garde.” Modernism/Modernity 16.2 (April 2009): 329-355

 “Black Indians and Savage Christians: Unmaking the ‘Other’ in the Performance of Conquest.” e-misférica 2.1 (April2005):

Reviews and Other Non-Refereed (Invited) Writings

“Teatro da Experiência,” “Nelson Rodrigues,” and “Teatro del Murciélago.” Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. Available at

Review of The Triumph of Brazilian Modernism: The Metanarrative of Emancipation and Counter-Narratives by Saulo Gouveia. Hispanic Review 84.2 (Spring 2016): 241-244 

Review of Re-Casting Transnationalism through Performance: Theatre Festivals in Cape Verde,Mozambique, and Brazil by Christina S. McMahon. Modern Drama 58.1 (Spring 2015): 145-147

“Nelson Rodrigues: The Pornographic Angel Comes to NYC.” The Brooklyn Rail (October 1, 2005):

Sarah J. Townsend