Universiteit Leiden

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Sara Polak

University Lecturer

Dr. S.A. Polak
+31 71 527 2142

Sara Polak is a University Lecturer at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.

More information about Sara Polak

Fields of interest

  • American studies 
  • Presidential image-making 
  • Play and politics 
  • Digital media studies 
  • Comics and political cartooning 
  • Disability studies  
  • Memory studies 
  • Modern English Literature 
  • 19th- to 21st-century American literature 


My long-term research focus is on the cultural and media politics of image-making of US presidents, and on presidents and their use of media in a broad sense. I am currently working on a book about playful politics and Donald Trump’s use of Twitter, as part of the NWO project Playing Politics: Media Platforms Making Worlds

My doctoral dissertation (with Peter Liebregts and Frans Willem Korsten) was on Franklin D. Roosevelt as a cultural icon in American memory. It included a Fulbright visiting fellowship at Yale University, with Jay Winter. My book, FDR in American Memory – Roosevelt and the Making of an Icon, appeared with Johns Hopkins University Press in 2021. 

In 2016-2017, I did a one-year NWO Rubicon postdoc at the Justus-Liebig Universität in Giessen, Germany, with Greta Olson, focused on the Ebola epidemic in US cultural memory on Twitter. This is both how I moved into social media research, and into studying Donald Trump, who was an avid Ebola tweeter, and during that year, became US president. This project led to two edited volumes, both to appear in Open Access in 2020/2021: Embodying Contagion: The Viropolitics of Horror and Desire in Contemporary Discourse (with Megen de Bruin-Molé and Sandra Becker, University of Wales Press), and Violence and Trolling on Social Media: History, Affect and Effects of Online Vitriol (with Daniel Trottier, Amsterdam University Press). 

Curriculum vitae

2021-present Research Fellow “Playing Politics: Media Platforms Making Worlds” 

2020-present   Program chair of the MA North American Studies; coordinator of the minor American Studies 

2015-present   University Lecturer in American Studies at Leiden University 

2010-2015 Lecturer in modern English Literature and PhD Researcher at Leiden University 

2014-2015 Six-month Fulbright Scholarship at Yale University 

2008-2010 Lecturer in American History at the University of Amsterdam 

2005-2007 Research Master in Literary Studies (cum laude) at the University of Amsterdam 

2005-2007 B.Sc. Psychology at the University of Amsterdam 

2000-2003 BA Hons. English Literature at Cambridge University (UK) 

Key publications

  • FDR in American Memory: Roosevelt and the Making of an Icon. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021. 
  • Embodying Contagion: The Viropolitics of Horror and Desire in Contemporary Discourse. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2021. Open Access. [https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/47586]. Co-editors: Megen de Bruin-Molé and Sandra Becker. 
  • Violence and Trolling on Social Media: History, Affect and Effects of Online Vitriol. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. Open Access. [https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/42883]. Co-editor: Daniel Trottier. 
  • “Posting the Presidency: Trump’s Cartoon Politics in a Social Media Landscape” Media, Arts, and Law Review 22:4, 403-419, 2019. 

Teaching activities

  • Words as Weapons in the USA 
  • Migration Matters: (Im)migration, Memory, and Identity in American Literature and Film 
  • Slavery and Memory in the Black Atlantic 
  • American Comics Against the Code: Autobiography and Journalism in Graphic Novels 
  • Literature 5A: American Literature 1917-present 
  • Thesis supervision in North American Studies, Literary Studies, English and International Studies 

Grants and honors

  • NWO Open Science, Open Access Book Grant for Embodying Contagion. (2020) 
  • NWO-KIEM “Voices of Cultural Memory: Oral/Aural Storytelling in the Museum” – research project with the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, with Laura Bertens, Yra van Dijk, Anthonya Visser. (2017) 
  • NWO Rubicon Scholarship for research at Justus-Liebig Universität Giessen, with Greta Olson. (2016) 
  • Fulbright Scholarship for 6-month research fellowship at Yale University, with Jay Winter. (2014) 
  • NWO Promoties in de Geesteswetenschappen, PhD Grant. (2010) 

University Lecturer

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Centre for the Arts in Society
  • Moderne Engelstalige letterkunde

Work address

Arsenaalstraat 1
2311 CT Leiden
Room number B1.26



No relevant ancillary activities

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