Photo by: Phil Dembinski

I am a Woodrow Wilson Foundation 2018 Career Enhancement Fellow and an Assistant Professor of African American Literature and Culture in the English & Creative Writing Department of Columbia College Chicago.

I received my Ph.D. from the English Department of Vanderbilt University.  After completing my M.A. in English at the University of Pennsylvania, I moved to Nashville, TN, and with the care and support of the Vanderbilt English community, began my doctorate education.  My research and teaching focuses broadly upon African American literature, Gender and Women’s Studies, and American Studies.  Although I initially directed my academic attention to twentieth-century African American and Caribbean literatures and particularly feminist readings of conjure women and witches, my interests (like so many others’) shifted through my graduate career.  I am now solidly planted in the nineteenth century with a concentration in Black Classicism; however, I consider the 19C long and keep my eye on the spaces of transition (read: the turn of the century).

My book project, entitled Niobe Repeating: Black New Women’s Literature and Ovidian Transformation, argues how, while forging a new literary tradition at the end of the nineteenth century, Black New Women writers in America utilized “the master’s tools” of classical allusions, plots, and forms, to undermine national narratives grounded in American neoclassicism. Niobe Repeating examines works by Black New Women classicist authors who rewrote Ovidian forms and plotlines, and redefined black feminine identity as a dynamic process of transformation. These authors argued for intellectual and artistic capital by rewriting classical literatures used to define human intelligence and creativity, simultaneously undermining their own marginalization.  My project examines the poetry and fiction of black classicist women writers at the turn of the twentieth century:  H. Cordelia Ray, Pauline E. Hopkins, and Alice Dunbar-Nelson. Although I begin with Phillis Wheatley, I concentrate on these later writers and their concerns with not only literary form and canon formation, but their uses of classical lenses to discuss mounting racial violence, debates of citizenship, and (certainly) gender issues.