Tess Chakkalakal

Peter M. Small Associate Professor of Africana Studies and English

Teaching this semester

AFRS 2582/ENGL 2582. Reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

Introduces students to the controversial history of reader responses to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Students engage with various theoretical approaches—reader response theory, feminist, African Americanist, and historicist—to the novel, then turn to the novel itself and produce their own literary interpretation. In order to do so, students examine the conditions of the novel’s original production. By visiting various historic locations, the Stowe House on Federal Street, the First Parish on Maine Street, Special Collections of the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, students compare the novel’s original historical context to the history that the novel produced. Aside from reading Stowe’s antislavery fiction, students also read works produced with and against Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

ENGL 2505. American Literature to 1865

Surveys American literature from the colonial period to the Civil War. Studies accounts of early contact, narratives of captivity and slavery, sermons, autobiographies, poems, and novels. Authors include Winthrop, Rowlandson, Franklin, Douglass, Hawthorne, Melville, Stowe, Thoreau, Whitman, and Dickinson. Note: Fulfills the pre-1800 requirement for English majors.

Tess Chakkalakal [pronounced “Chah-KAHL-ickle”] has published widely on nineteenth-century African American and American literature. She is the author of Novel Bondage: Slavery, Marriage, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century America (Illinois, 2011) which earned the Robert K. Martin Prize for best book on American literature and "a must read" title by Choice.  She is co-editor of Jim Crow, Literature, and the Legacy of Sutton E. Griggs (Georgia, 2013).  Professor Chakkalakal has earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Duke University, Emory University, and the Mellon Foundation. Before coming to Bowdoin in 2008, Professor Chakkalakal taught at Williams College and Bowling Green State University.


  • PhD , York University
  • MA, York University
  • BA, University of Toronto

PDF Curriculum Vitae



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

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


“Sutton Griggs.” In Oxford Bibliographies in American Literature. Ed. Jackson Bryer. New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

 “Dutchman’s Uncle Tom.”In Approaches to Teaching Baraka’s Dutchman. Eds. Matthew Calihman and Gerald Early. New York: Modern Language Association, forthcoming.

“Complicating the Relation between Literature and History: Slave Participation in Fact and Fiction.” In Teaching the Literatures of the American Civil War. Ed. Collen Glenney Boggs. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

"Abolition in the Age of Obama," American Literary History, (Fall 2015) 27. 3: 539-548. 

Review of Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery by Heather Andrea Williams in Journal of the Civil War Era 4.1 March 2014. (126-129) 

“Finding a Home for Equiano,” in Teaching Olaudah Equiano’s Narrative. University of Tennessee Press, 2012. (95-117)

“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.

Representing Segregation Toward an Aesthetics of Living Jim Crow, and Other Forms of Racial Division“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.


Public Humanities Projects

Interview on C19:Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists Podcast

C-Span Television Interview

BBC Radio 4 Documentary interview

Interview with Portland Magazine on the Stowe House

On Zora Neale Hurston, Maine Humanities Council Podcast

Academic Spotlight: Tracing Lasting, Local Footprints of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'



Previous Courses

Introduction to the Black Novel in the United States (AFRS/ENG 107) SyllabusPDFPDF

African American Literature and the Law (AFRS/ENG 326) SyllabusPDFPDF