Edgar Garcia

Edgar Garcia
Associate Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature
Rosenwald 418
Ph.D., Yale University; B.A., University of California, Berkeley; A.A., Chaffey Community College
Research Interests: Hemispheric literatures and cultures of the Americas, primarily during the 20th century; indigenous and Latino studies; American literature; poetry and poetics; environmental criticism; and the intersection of poetry and anthropology


I am a poet and scholar of the hemispheric cultures of the Americas. My most recent book, Emergency: Reading the Popol Vuh in a Time of Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2022), is a collection of 9 essays that show what this foundational creation story of the indigenous Americas (the Popol Vuh) has to teach people about the relation between emergency and emergence. My scholarship and poetry are likewise inquiries into the relation between crisis and creativity or world creation—often experimenting with literary and disciplinary form to bring ideas and feelings to life. Alongside my books, my work has appeared in such venues as Publications of the Modern Language Association (PMLA), Modern Philology, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Portable Gray, and Fence.  

In addition to teaching in the Department of English and the Program in Creative Writing, in 2022 I also am serving as guest editor in chief of Fence, a journal of innovative literary writing.  

More specifically, I work on the literatures and cultural practices that—for various social reasons—tend not to be taken seriously as literature and culture: the contemporary literature, visual art, legal philosophy, and environmental thinking of non-alphabetical sign systems such as pictographs and khipu; dreams; practices and textual formations of divination; magic. Because my scholarship and creative practices are concerned with the world-bearing qualities of literary works (especially poetics), these inquiries often take place at the intersection of anthropology and literary studies. And my teaching reflects these interests in both content and form: my classes regularly involve strong creative components, in addition to lessons in context, history, and theory. 

(For a longer bio and description of my work, please see my page on the website of the Department of English.)

Work with Students

I teach undergraduate and graduate courses (at MA and PhD levels); and I advise BA, MA, and PhD students across a broad spectrum of twentieth-century poetry and poetics. 


Undergraduate Courses

  • Ethnopoetics (English, Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies; a course on how the social construct of race takes special form in language and literary expression)
  • Poetic Voices (Creative Writing; BA/MA Technical Seminar in Creative Writing; a course on the problem of voice in writing)
  • Pagan London (English; London study abroad course on the modernist and postmodernist reception of J.G. Frazer’s Golden Bough)
  • Signs of the Americas (English, Romance Languages and Literatures, Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies; a Makers Seminar, with strong creative components, on the modern literatures of pictographs, hieroglyphs, totems, geoglyphs, and khipu)
  • Poetry and the Human (a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary Divisional Core sequence in which I regularly teach; on the many aspects and variants of poetry in social life)
  • Introduction to Poetry—Rhythm and Myth (English; a large lecture course introducing students to basic topics poetry, especially the fundamental roles of rhythm and myth)
  • Popol Vuh, Epic of the Americas (English, Fundamentals, and Center for Latin American Studies; a course on this foundational work of hemispheric American literature, examining the epic closely, as well as its engagement by North American, Latin American, Latinx, and Indigenous writers and artists, as well as taking into account the intellectual contribution of Central America and the diaspora of Central Americans in the US today)
  • Poets in Archives (Creative Writing; a course on the uses of historical archives in poetry writing, focusing especially on poetic strategies and techniques in relation to historical knowledge)
  • Migrant Poetics (English; a course on the poetry and poetics of contemporary migration with emphasis on globalization theory, climatological collapse, and race nationalism

Graduate Courses

  • Anthropological Poetics (English, Ph.D. Seminar)
  • Creations: Popol Vuh and Paradise Lost (English and CDI [Center for Disciplinary Innovation, Franke Institute], Ph.D. Seminar)
  • Migrations, Refugees, and Races (English, MA Seminar)

Selected Publications

  • Emergency: Reading the Popol Vuh in a Time of Crisis. University of Chicago Press, 2022.
  • Migrant Lots, in-process scholarly book on divination and migration as focused by modes of risk analysis other than the theory of probability and the science of demographics that emerges from it.
  • Signs of the Americas: A Poetics of Pictography, Hieroglyphs, and Khipu. University of Chicago Press, 2019.
  • Skins of Columbus: A Dream Ethnographybook of poetry and creative nonfiction about dreams as reservoirs of historical and anthropological experience. Fence Books, 2019.
  • Infinite Regress, a sequence of poems for exhibition catalog of visual art of Eomon Ore-Giron. Bom Dia Books, 2020.
  • American Literature in the World: An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler, co-edited with Wai Chee Dimock, Jordan Brower, et al. Columbia University Press, 2016.
  • Boundary Loot: OHMAXAC, poetry book with a preface by Dennis Tedlock. Punch Press, 2012.
Subject Area: Poetry