Erin Kappeler is Assistant Professor of English at Tulane University, where she teaches courses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century American poetry and poetics in addition to general education and survey courses. Her current book project, Shaping Free Verse: American Prosody and Poetics 1880-1920, tells the secret American history of free verse. Previous accounts contend that free verse was a response to the metrical homogeneity of late nineteenth-century poetry, but Shaping Free Verse shows that this common view misrepresents both the state of poetry at the end of the nineteenth century and the impulses that underwrote free verse. This project argues that early discussions of the form were driven by an ideal of American identity—and, not incidentally, by the emergence of American literary criticism. As late nineteenth-century literary scholars encountered work in the newly institutionalized fields of ethnology and anthropology, they abstracted social relations into verse traits. This forgotten branch of poetics turned a set of ideas about national identity into the genre of free verse poetry, and this new genre in turn underwrote the modes of literary analysis institutionalized both inside and outside the academy in the twentieth century. In advancing this alternative genealogy, Shaping Free Verse re-centers the frequently overlooked contributions of female editors and critics to the development of modernist poetry, and highlights the critical moves made in the early twentieth century that helped to construct African-American modernism and American modernism as separate traditions.

Kappeler has also received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Massachusetts Historical Society for a planned second book, Everyday Laureates: Community Poetry in New England 1865-1900, which explores the reading practices of amateur poetry societies.


  • “Editing America: Nationalism and the New Poetry.” Modernism/modernity 21.4 (2014): 899-918.
  • “The Georgian Poets and the Genteel Tradition” (with Meredith Martin). A Companion to Modernist Poetry. Ed. David E. Chinitz and Gail McDonald. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. 199-208.
  • “Constructing Walt Whitman: Literary History and Histories of Rhythm.” Critical Rhythm. Eds. Jonathan Culler and Ben Glaser. Forthcoming from Fordham University Press.
  • Kappeler, Erin. "Counting with Crapsey." Unsung Masters: Adelaide Crapsey, ed. Jenny Molberg and Christian Bancroft, Pleiades Press, 2018.
  • "Four Approaches to Teaching Poetry (Review)," College English, vol. 84, no. 3, 2022, pp. 291–300.
  • "The Return of the Nineteenth Century," Paideuma vol. 45, 2021, pp.53–60.
  • "Free Verse, Historical Poetics, and Settler Time," Historical Poetics, special issue of Literature Compass, vol. 17, no. 7, 2020.