Divisional Dean, Humanities
Karen J. Ford served as Senior Associate Dean in summer 2016, and Associate Dean for the Humanities of the College of Arts and Sciences in spring 2015. Prior to that, she served for three years as the Head of the Department of English, six years as the Director of the Creative Writing Program, and six years as the Director of Graduate Studies in English.
Professor Ford is a specialist in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American poetry and poetics. She is interested in the politics of literary form—how writers employ poetic forms for social and political purposes. Her first book, Gender and the Poetics of Excess, explores the extravagant writing styles of some women poets who simultaneously parody the stereotype of the gabby female and demand a place for their words in a literary tradition that is inhospitable to women writers. Her second, Split-Gut Song: Jean Toomer and the Poetics of Modernity, investigates how Toomer and other modernist writers equated certain poetic forms with specific racial or national identities. She is currently at work on a book about race and poetic form, trying to understand the processes by which some forms—the sonnet, ballad, haiku, or free verse, for instance—are “racialized,” given a racial content or asked to do racial work in the literary culture. How does US poet Gerald Vizenor, for example, come to view Japanese haiku as a Native American form that can preserve his Anishinaabe oral heritage?
In addition to Split-Gut Song and Gender and the Poetics of Excess, she has published articles on US poets like Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Gerald Vizenor, and William Oandasan and on poetic forms like the sonnet, ballad, haiku, and villanelle. She is working on a book about race and poetic form in twentieth- and twenty-first century American poetry.
Professor Ford teaches courses in nineteenth- and twentieth-century US poetry, women’s writing, African American poetry, and modernist poetry. She is the recipient of the Ersted Award for Distinguished Teaching and is a former Williams Fellow.
Karen Ford received a B.A. in English from California State University, Sacramento, a Master’s in English from the University of California, Davis, and a PhD in English from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.