Sarah Higinbotham

Assistant Professor of English

Sarah Higinbotham studies and teaches Shakespeare and early modern literature, focusing on the intersections of literature and law. She writes about the violence of the law in early modern England, critical prison theory, and human rights in literature.

Dr. Higinbotham teaches courses on Shakespeare and John Milton as well as law and literature, surveys of English literature, and critical reading and writing. She works with students who are interested in criminal justice reform, facilitates undergraduate peer tutoring in Georgia’s prisons, and oversees summer internships.

Higinbotham was a Folger Shakespeare Library Residential Fellow in 2017 researching early modern juries, assize sermons, sentencing rubrics, judges’ notebooks, and legal records. She studied paleography at the Folger in 2018 and rare book bindings at University of Virginia’s Rare Book School in 2019 and 2022.

While earning a PhD in English, Higinbotham also taught college courses inside a Georgia State Prison. In 2014, she co-founded a nonprofit (Common Good Atlanta) that connects universities with prisons, work that is rooted in the belief that human dignity flourishes, and communities become stronger, when access to higher education is equitable. Common Good Atlanta offers accredited college courses in six Georgia prisons, five days a week. Before joining the Oxford faculty in 2017, Higinbotham taught Shakespeare and Milton at Georgia Tech for three years as a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow.

Photograph by Alex Minovici


BA| University of Richmond| 1992

MA| University of Hawaii| 1996

PhD| Georgia State University| 2012

Courses Taught

Shakespeare and Law

Poetry and Prose of John Milton

Survey of English Literature to 1660

Survey of English Literature from 1660

Discovery Seminar: Metaphors 


2023 Mellon Foundation Grant, co-Principal Investigator for Literary Journal

2023 Emory University Scholarly Writing and Publishing Grant

2021 Atlanta Uniter Award, from Atlanta United MLS and American Family Insurance 

2021 Gregory-Rackley Award 

2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Award (Emory University)

2020 Lillian E. Smith Writer-in-Service Award 

2019 Governor's Award for the Arts & Humanities

2019 Georgia Humanities Grant 

2017 Folger Shakespeare Library Fellowship

2017 Leadership Atlanta

2016 Georgia Department of Corrections Volunteer of the Year

2015 Women Working in Justice Award

2015 Julian Mezey Dissertation Award, Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities


"Restorative Justice Inside Prison: Enacting the Promise of Emancipatory Pedagogy,” with Elizabeth Beck, Sacad Nour, Shanard Linsey, and Shane Hinkson, Contemporary Justice Review, 2022

"A Third Space of Proximity: How a College-in-Prison Nonprofit Continues During Prison Quarantine," with Jamil Zainaldin, Stanford Journal of Social innovation, 2020

“‘We Are the Plot’: Teaching Humanities Inside Georgia’s Prisons,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, July 2019

“‘No Fractions’: Math in Prison for the Common Good,” with Sacad Nour, Noe Martinez, Dave Evans, and John Bell, Mathematical Outreach, World Scientific Publishing, June 2019

“Early Modern Legal Violence: For the Common Good?” The Collation, October 2017

Human Rights in Children’s Literature: Imagination and the Narrative of Law, with Jonathan Todres, Oxford University Press, 2015. Reprinted in paperback, 2016.

“A Thousand Hamlets,” with Fan Geng and Dun Cao, TECHStyle, July 2015.

“‘A Person’s a Person’: Children’s Rights in Children’s Literature,” with Jonathan Todres, Columbia Human Rights Law Review, 2013. Reprinted in Children’s Rights, 2016.

Things as They Are: William Godwin on Sympathy and Punishment,” Law, Culture and the Humanities, 2011, reprinted in 2015.

“Bloodletting and Beasts: Metaphors of Legal Violence,” Wake Forest Law Review, November 2014.

“Reform Movements in Justice,” The Social History of Crime and Punishment in AmericaSAGE Publications, 2012.

“Milton’s Optimism: Education as Repair,” Reading and Repair: Milton, Poetics, History, Duquesne University Press, 2012.


"Languages and Literature of Incarceration," MLA, Philadelphia, January 2024

"Metaphors of Legal Violence," Sixteenth Century Society and Conference, Baltimore, October 2023

"Carceral Shakespeare,” Shakespeare Association of America, MinneapolisApril 2023

"Awe and Ethics in the Early Modern Classroom," Sixteenth Century Society and Conference, Minneapolis, November 2022

“Teaching as Radical Hospitality,” Sixteenth Century Society and Conference, San Diego, California, November 2021

“Dignity Matters: Public Writing, Graduate Student Education, and Prison Writing Programs,” Conference on College Composition and Communication, Virtual, April 2021

“Teaching Shakespeare in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” Shakespeare Association of America, Virtual, April 2021

“Early Modern Juries as Good Friends and Neighbors,” Renaissance Society of America, Virtual, April 2021  

 “Early Modern Jury Nullification,” Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, New Haven, 2020

“Paleography in the Early Modernist Classroom,” Sixteenth Century Society and Conference,St Louis, 2019 

“Environments of Justice,” Shakespeare Association of America Annual Conference, Co-Facilitator of seminar, Washington, D.C., 2019 

“Data Mining in the Early Modernist Classroom,” Sixteenth Century Society and ConferenceAlbuquerque, New Mexico, 2018 

 “Prospero’s Legal Ethics,” Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities Conference, University of Connecticut School of Law, 2016

“Milton: The Humanities in Public Life,” The International Symposium on John Milton, University of Exeter, 2015

“Elizabeth I and the Sword of Mercy,” Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities Conference, Georgetown Law School, 2015

“Metaphors of Legal Violence,” Wake Forest University School of Law Spring Colloquium, Wake Forest School of Law, 2014 

“Unwhipped of Justice: Legal Violence in King Lear,” Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities Conference, University of Virginia Law School, 2014

Retributive and Restorative Justice in Paradise Lost,” The International Symposium on John Milton, Tokyo, 2012

Research Interests

Current Book Project: Early Modern Justice and the Violence of the Law