Associate Professor of Africana Studies and English
Director of Africana Studies Program
213 Adams Hall
My research and teaching focus on American and African American literature from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth. My first book Novel Bondage: Slavery, Marriage, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century America (University of Illinois Press, 2011) examines the development of the slave-marriage plot through close readings of literary fictions by writers such as William Wells Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lydia Maria Child, Frances Harper, Frank Webb, and Charles Chesnutt. By doing so, I consider how the slave-marriage plot challenged the meaning and function of legal marriage in the United States.
My new projects concern the literary work of Sutton E. Griggs, Albion W. Tourgee, Charles W. Chesnutt, and Walter Hines Page. My research into these writers (and the relationships between them) explores how they employed literature, particularly the novel form, to respond to and participate in the political issues -- voting rights, imperialism, public education, segregation, and income distribution -- of their time. I am currently completing a short biography entitled The Several Lives of Charles W. Chesnutt as well as co-editing a critical edition of Griggs's 1899 novel Imperium in Imperio.
My courses intertwine my research interests in various ways. In my “Introduction to African American Literary Fiction,” (AFRS/ENG 107) I invite students to consider the interplay between political and aesthetic commitments that produce a distinct literary form that begins with the turn to fiction by former slaves (and their descendants) in the mid-nineteenth century and concludes with the literary response to Jim Crow by writers such as Nella Larsen, George Schulyer and Ralph Ellison. “Reconstructing the Nation” (AFRS/ENG 258) asks students to consider the ways in which legal and political reforms were articulated through novelistic fictions set in the southern United States written between 1865 and 1890.
Jim Crow, Literature, and the Legacy of Sutton E. Griggs, with Kenneth W. Warren, University of Georgia Press, 2013
Novel Bondage: Slavery, Marriage, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century American, University of Illinois Press, 2011
“Whimsical Constrasts”: Love and Marriage in The Minister’s Wooing and Our Nig in The New England Quarterly March 2011 (Vol. 84, no. 1).
“To Make an Old Century New” Review Essay in American Quarterly December 2010 Vol 62, No. 4, pp. 1001-1012
"Wedded to the Color Line: Charles Chesnutt’s Stories of Segregation" in Representing Segregation, Toward an Aesthetics of Living Jim Crow, and Other Forms of Racial Division, SUNY Press 2010
“Wedded to Race: Charles Chesnutt’s Marital Fiction” in Studies in American Fiction 36.2 (Autumn 2008) 155-76.
“Making a Collection: James Weldon Johnson and the Mission of African American Literature” Spec. issue of South Atlantic Quarterly 104.3 (2005): 521-541
“Uncle Tom and the Making of Modern African American Literature.” Review of Black Political Economy 33.1 (2005): 73-87.
“I, hereby, vow to Read The Interesting Narrative” in Captivating Voices: Writing Confinement, Citizenship, & Nationhood in the Nineteenth Century. Eds. Jason Haslam and Julia Wright. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005. 86-109.
“Making an Art Out of Suffering: Bill T. Jones’ Uncle Tom.” Peering Behind the Curtain: Disabilities in Contemporary Drama. Eds. Kimball King and Thomas Fahy, New York: Routledge, 2002. 35-46
“Being Reena in Canada: A Case of Reckless Eyeballing.” Rude: Contemporary Black Canadian Criticism Toronto: Insomniac Press, 2000. 159-167.
“Rev. of Autobiography and Black Identity Politics: Racialization in Twentieth-Century America.” Biography: an Interdisciplinary Quarterly. 23.3, (2000): 568-572.
Academic Spotlight: Tracing Lasting, Local Footprints of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'