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John Marsh is Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of four books. The first, Hog Butchers, Beggars, and Bus Boys: Poverty, Labor, and the Making of Modern American Poetry (2011), offers a revisionary history of poetic modernism that recovers the decisive role workers and the poor played in the formation of early twentieth-century American poetry. The second, Class Dismissed: Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way out of Inequality (2011), debunks the popular belief that what causes poverty and economic inequality in the United States is lack of education and, thus, that what will fix these ills is more and better education. The third, In Walt We Trust: How a Queer Socialist Poet Can Save America from Itself (2015), argues that the poetry of Walt Whitman can help us overcome the various sources of malaise (death, money, sex, political disgust) in the 21st century. Finally, The Emotional Life of the Great Depression (2019) tells the story of the Great Depression through its paradigmatic emotions: despair, anger, sympathy, righteousness, panic, fear, awe, love, and hope.
In addition to these, Marsh is the editor of You Work Tomorrow: An Anthology of American Labor Poetry, 1929-1941 (2007), which collects some of the thousands of remarkable but largely forgotten poems workers and labor organizers published in their union newspapers in the 1930s. The anthology won the 2007-2008 Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing from the Working-Class Studies Association. He is also the author of The Puzzle of Poetry (2020), an introduction to poetry textbook that describes how experienced readers go about getting at the meanings in poems. It finds an analogy for reading poems--hence its title--in crossword puzzles. In addition to the books, he has published articles, essays, and reviews in American Literature, American Literary History, College English, Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers and more popular venues like The Chronicle Review, Le Monde Diplomatique, Inside Higher Ed, The Hedgehog Review, Salon, and The Utne Reader.
In recent years, Marsh has taught undergraduate and graduate classes on modern and contemporary poetry, nineteenth-century American poetry, the 1930s, and the economics, philosophy, and literature of inequality.
He is currently writing a book about probability and chance.