DeSales Harrison

  • Professor of English

Areas of Study


  • BA, Yale University, 1990
  • MA, Johns Hopkins University, 1991
  • PhD, Harvard University, 2002


My teaching centers around lyric poetry, with an emphasis on modern and contemporary work. Among the courses I regularly teach are an introductory course called 100 Poems, a midlevel course on poetry of the last century or so, and upper-level courses focusing on smaller groupings of writers.

I also offer a senior seminar on poetry and poetics and have recently developed a first-year seminar called Objects and Apparitions, which focuses on the disciplines of attention, observation, and argumentation vital for humanistic study.

Since 2017, I have served at the director of the Oberlin Program in Creative Writing. This period has been one of challenge and innovation in the program. We have revised the curriculum and requirements to reflect our communities’ increased attention to hybridity, collaboration, and new media, as well as new technologies for reading, distribution, and interpretation.

I have published a book entitled The End of the Mind: The Edge of the Intelligible in Hardy, Stevens, Larkin, Plath, and Glück, and a number of articles on modern and contemporary poetry.

In 2018 Random House published my first novel, The Waters and the Wild. Currently I’m writing a novel about the final months of the occupation of France in World War II.

Critical projects include a book in progress called This is Mortality: First Things and Last in Lyric Poetry, which discusses (in addition to poetry and mortality) how poems frame concepts and elaborate ideas, in short, how poems think. I have also begun work on a book entitled Psyche's Lover: Eros and the Modern Lyric, about some modes of love (sexual, fraternal, filial, intellectual, and divine) and the different kinds of poetic speech they have occasioned.

It was my pleasure and honor to work for many years as an associate editor of FIELD: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, through its 100th and last issue. Administratively I’ve spent two terms on the Educational Plans and Policy Committee, chaired the Jesse Floyd Mack and Mead-Swing Lectureship Committees, and have been a member of the Library Committee.

Other interests include greenwood carving, loudspeaker and amplifier building, knitting, and playing the guitar with unshakeable incompetence.

Spring 2024

Person and Impersonation — ENGL 219
Six Poets — ENGL 323

Fall 2024

Objects and Apparitions: Poetry as Fiction and Fact — FYSP 044
Six Poets — ENGL 323