Dr Sarah Bernstein



Personal statement

I joined Strathclyde in 2021 as Lecturer in Scottish Literature & Creative Writing. Previously, I taught modern and contemporary literature and theory at the Universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh, and in 2018 I held a postdoctoral fellowship at IASH. My research focuses on twentieth-century literature, with an emphasis on literary experimentation, gender, care and the commons. I am particularly interested in the idea of literary 'difficulty': its forms, its uses, its affordances. 


Study for Obedience
Bernstein Sarah
The social-scientific imagination : Muriel Spark's The Ballad of Peckham Rye
Bernstein Sarah
MFS Modern Fiction Studies Vol 68, pp. 298-319 (2022)
Common language : academics against networking and the poetics of precarity
Bernstein Sarah, Malone Patricia
Literary Representations of Precarious Work, 1840 to the Present (2022) (2022)
Bernstein Sarah
Shining the boot
Bernstein Sarah
Bernstein Sarah
2 (2021)

More publications


I teach literature and creative writing at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. 

Research interests

My critical research focuses on the politics of experiment and the politics of care in twentieth-century literature. My current book project, Difficult Women and the Common Good: Towards a Literature in Commons explores the relationship between affective and aesthetic difficulty in the work of Scottish writers such as Muriel Spark and Helen Adam and American writers like Gertrude Stein and Laura Riding. I look at how the operations of these ‘difficult women’ can, counterintuitively, offer new ways of conceiving forms of social cooperation.

My first monograph, The Social-Scientific Imagination: Mid-Century Women's Writing and the Welfare State (in development) concentrates on postwar women writers' indirect and mediated representations of the welfare state in the form of a 'social-scientific imagination', manifested in both subject matter and literary form. An article on Muriel Spark and the post-war worker, which arose from this project, is forthcoming in Modern Fiction Studies, and a version of the chapter on Angela Carter and post-war economic planning was published in Contemporary Women's Writing. Elsewhere, I've written on topics like austerity, housing and the commons in the fiction of Doris Lessing; Agatha Christie and the modern girl; and, most recently, with Patricia Malone, on academic precarity and literary experiment in the zine Academics Against Networking

My creative writing practice also focuses on an investigation into aesthetic and affective difficulty. My first novel, The Coming Bad Days, was published by Daunt Books in 2021 and is interested in ideas of distance, detachment and attention. My second novel, Study for Obedient, borrows from the painter Paula Rego's idea that women can be 'obedient and murderous at the same time'. It was recently excerpted in Granta. A collection of prose poetry, Now Comes the Lightning, was published by Pedlar Press in 2015 and shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Writing.