William Sharpe joined the faculty of Barnard in 1983. In addition to his teaching duties for the English department, he is affiliated with the American Studies program at Barnard. In 2018 he will be Fulbright Visiting Professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Professor Sharpe specializes in the literature, art, and culture of the modern city, particularly New York. He teaches courses in urban literature, modern poetry, Victorian literature, and literary criticism.
His work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has published numerous articles on literature, urban studies, and the visual arts.
Professor Sharpe's book on images of New York City at night, called New York Nocturne: The City After Dark in Art, Literature, and Photography (Princeton University Press, 2008), is the winner of the Peter S. Rollins Award of the Northeast American Studies Association and the MSA Book Prize of the Modernist Studies Association.
His latest book, Grasping Shadows: The Dark Side of Literature, Painting, Photography, and Film, has recently been published by Oxford University Press (2017). The book analyzes dozens of artistic shadows in images and texts, proposing a method for understanding how shadows function in all artistic media, from Plato to Picasso to popular songs, films, installations, street art, and even advertising.
Professor Sharpe's current research explores the cultural history of walking, particularly in cities, as well as the emergence of walking as an artistic practice since the 1960s. He teaches an interdisciplinary course called "Walk This Way" that looks at pedestrian milestones from ancient Greek peripatic philosophers to contemporary performance art.