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Nathan Suhr-SytsmaAssociate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies


At Emory since 2012, Nathan Suhr-Sytsma teaches and writes about twentieth- and twenty-first-century poetry, African literature, and the environmental humanities. He is a core faculty member of the Institute of African Studies as well as being affiliated with the program in Global & Postcolonial Studies and Irish Studies at Emory. While he welcomes inquiries from prospective PhD students with shared research interests, please direct general inquiries about the graduate program to or the current Director of Graduate Admissions.

Dr. Suhr-Sytsma’s first book, Poetry, Print, and the Making of Postcolonial Literature was published in 2017 by Cambridge University Press. Drawing on research in Emory's own archival collections, it reveals an intriguing history of relationships among poets and editors from Ireland, Nigeria, Britain, and the Caribbean during the mid-twentieth-century era of decolonization. The book examines the print record of such leading anglophone poets as Seamus Heaney, Christopher Okigbo, and Derek Walcott, even as it makes the case for the need to read them alongside their less prominent contemporaries. An early version of that book’s argument was published as “Ibadan Modernism,” and Dr. Suhr-Sytsma has continued to explore questions about modernism in African contexts in an essay entitled “Christopher Okigbo’s Materials” and a forthcoming book chapter, “Modernism and the Chimera of Modernity in African Letters.” Other work focused on postcolonial poetry and decolonial approaches to poetics appears in The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Poetry (2017), Decolonizing the English Literary Curriculum (2024), and Poetics from the Global South, a co-edited special issue of Interventions (2024).

Dr. Suhr-Sytsma is now completing a book about African poetry and worldmaking in the twenty-first century. Essays related to this project appear in a special issue of New Literary History on Poetry and Race and a special section of Social Dynamics called Small Magazines, Literary Networks and Self-Fashioning in Africa and its Diasporas, among other places. His commitment to African literary studies extends beyond poetry. Co-editor of a special section of Research in African Literatures, Religion, Secularity, and African Writing (Summer 2017), which includes an interview with the novelist Elnathan John, he has also written about how recent Nigerian fiction represents—and reflects on—literary publishing, prizes and world literature, and interreligious conflict and dialogue.

He maintains an ongoing investment in Irish poetry and appreciation for the Irish language. In addition to a piece on Seamus Heaney’s self-reflexive engagement with print across his career, he has written essays about Japan in Irish poetry, how W. B. Yeats thought about Africa and how African writers in turn read Yeats, and contemporary poets—Moya Cannon, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, and Sinéad Morrissey—who look beyond Ireland to arrive at a recognition not just of the globe, but of the planet.

His teaching and research interests are moving increasingly toward texts—climate fiction, ecocriticism, and poetry included—that confront the planetary crisis.


  • B.A., Calvin College
  • Ph.D., Yale University