Sarah Ensor

Position title: Resident Fellow (2023-2024)

Pronouns: She/her

Assistant Professor, English, UW–Madison

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Queer Lasting: Ecologies of Care at Future’s End

“Queer Lasting” theorizes a model of environmental stewardship that does not orient itself toward the future. It reads American literature from two periods of “queer extinction” – the 1890s and 1980s – in order to trace forms of continuance, and practices of care, embodied by those who find themselves “at the last”: at the end of life, at the end of a family line, as the last member of a species, perhaps at the end of the future itself. By engaging nominally futureless scenes and nominally outmoded texts, the book demonstrates alternatives not only to environmentalism’s insistently futural imagination but also to the many speculative “futures” foundational to liberatory criticism today. It thus attunes us to ethical possibilities still and already here, stitched onto the back side of the present.

Sarah Ensor is an Assistant Professor of English at UW–Madison, where she is also a faculty associate in the Nelson Institute’s Center for History, Culture, and Environment. Her work engages the intersections between queer and environmental thought in American literature from the nineteenth century through the present. Her current book project, Queer Lasting: Ecologies of Care at Future’s End, asks what contemporary environmental thought’s seemingly necessary emphasis on the future has rendered unthinkable, and looks to scenes of queer extinction for alternate grammars of continuance and care. With Susan Scott Parrish, she co-edited The Cambridge Companion to American Literature and the Environment, which was published in 2022. Before arriving in Madison, she was an Assistant Professor of English at Portland State University and the University of Michigan.