Assistant Professor of African American Literature and Culture
She teaches African American literature courses that seek after the many ways that people experience blackness as a racial identity, as a cultural category, or as a mark upon the skin. At a time when social media responds to the deaths of unnamed black men and women with #blacklivesmatter, her courses question: what makes life matter, what literature is and what race or culture means, historically and at present. These questions find their way into her book project, Reading Pleasures, which examines the ways in which eighteenth-century enslaved and/or free men and women feel good or experience pleasure in spite of the privations of slavery, “unfreedom,” or white supremacy. Her research and writing have received generous financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Antiquarian Society, Library Company of Philadelphia, Rutgers University, University of Pennsylvania’s McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and College of Charleston. Her essays have appeared in Common-Place, Legacy, J19, Criticism, and American Periodicals.
We will examine the very meaning of African-American literature by reading a variety of major (and not so major) writers from the revolutionary era to the present. We will explore the idea of the African-American experience(s) of citizenship, race, sexuality, gender, class, and privilege. Instead of focusing upon the ways in which this literature emerges within history, we will address (across time) the various ways in which writers, orators, poets, rappers, and authors tackle these themes within literary forms: fiction, creative non-fiction, autobiography, poems, songs, etc. We will examine the following questions: What is citizenship? What does it mean to belong to a country? How do we (as individuals and members of diverse communities) experience race? Who/what determines the meaning of race? How do we (as individuals and members of diverse communities) shape our relationship to race (our race and those of others)? How does race shape our individual and communal relationship to place, gender, and ideas of sexuality? Readings and texts (printed and visual) may include works by: Phillis Wheatley, Douglass, Marrant, Hurston, Cooper, Walker.
What is #blackjoy? This course assumes that it's more than a hashtag. It examines the varied meaning of joy (and also the absence of joy) in contemporary African American literature. We will engage in a discussion about joy and pleasure by way of literature-as it is broadly defined-that will press against our understandings of race, blackness, affect, and selfhood while also asking questions about how these understandings impact communities. This course aims to address the multi-varied experiences that we bring to the table while at the same time, attending to the ongoing and ever present societal structures of power. Readings and texts (printed and visual) may include works by: Jesmyn Ward, Toni Morrison, Kiese Laymon, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brittney Cooper.