Dr Sara K Wood BA MPhil PhD

Department of English Literature
Associate Professor in American Literature and Culture

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am a lecturer in American Literature and Culture. My research focuses on twentieth-century African American literature and visual art, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between political and aesthetic ideas of freedom.


My research focuses on African American visual art and literature in the twentieth century.


  • Foundations of American Literature to 1890 (convenor)
  • The Thriller: American Crime Fiction (convenor)
  • Contemporary American Fiction (convenor)
  • Transatlantic Literary Relations (contributor)
  • MA Contemporary Literary Cultures: Politics (contributor)

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome research proposals on twentieth-century American visual art and literature.

African American Studies
African American visual culture
Post 1945 American art
Post 1945 American Literature
Contemporary Literature

Find out more - our PhD English Literature  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My research focuses on African American visual art and literature in the twentieth century. I am particularly interested in how ideas of artistic freedom – particularly formal experimentation and abstraction – can be explored within the broader context of the African American freedom movements during the civil rights era.

My forthcoming monograph entitled Maximising Freedom: African American Art, 1945-1970 (under contract to University Press of Mississippi)examines the synergy between ideas of aesthetic and political freedom in the work of African American visual artists. Given the formal developments in American art, and the civil rights history of the postwar period, African American artists responded to a complex set of demands in their work. The book explores how visual artists such as Norman Lewis, Romare Bearden, and Hale Woodruff challenged this understanding of art, as either aesthetically driven or socially engaged, and the narrow definitions of artistry that such a dichotomy imposes.


Recent publications


Wood, S 2018, '"The Thousand and One Little Things that go to Make up Life": Civil Rights Photography and the Everyday', American Art, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 66-85. https://doi.org/10.1086/701616


Wood, S 2009, "Pure Eye Music": Norman Lewis, Abstract Expressionism, and Bebop. in G Lock & D Murray (eds), The Hearing Eye: Jazz and Blues Influences in African American Visual Art. Oxford University Press, New York; Oxford, pp. 95-116. <http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780195340501.do#.UHKUK5jA9v4>

View all publications in research portal