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 (University of Illinois' New Black Studies series, under contract), 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 Digital THINC Lab and the University of Guelph, the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Antiquarian Society, Library Company of Philadelphia and the Program in African American History, Rutgers University, University of Pennsylvania’s McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and College of Charleston. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Common-Place, Early American Literature, Legacy, J19, Criticism, and American Periodicals.
Stories guide our lives. They teach us how to make meaning and how to make sense of meaning. In this course, we will read. We will read twenty-first century novels by African American authors and consider how they make meaning and how this meaning comes to represent our individual, collective and national stories. We'll consider the following questions: What is a story? What makes a story? How does meaning inform our reading of stories or our telling? Authors may include: Toni Morrison, Kiese Laymon, Jesmyn Ward, D. Watkins, Chimamanda Adichie.
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 makes literature literary and hip hop music? What do these two have in common? We will examine the very meaning of African-American literature by reading and listening to contemporary writers. We will explore national experiences of race and African-American experience(s) of race, sexuality, gender, class, and privilege right now. Instead of focusing solely upon the ways in which this literature emerges within a book-based history, we will address (across time) the various ways in which poets, rappers, authors tackle these themes within literary forms: fiction, creative non-fiction, autobiography, poems, songs, etc. Writers, musicians, and rappers may include: Jesmyn Ward, Jay-Z, Migos, Kiese Laymon, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Chimamanda Adichie.