The first in a series of profiles of newly-arrived professors, written by students in the English major.
At an early age, Anthony Reed knew he wanted to teach and write. Having finished his first semester at Yale, he does not remember how he knew, but perhaps the passion started when he realized he loved puns, or the ways in which language can be “anything but transparent.” What is clear is that the poetics of literature — in particular, that of works from the African diaspora — continues to enthrall him.
These texts have shaped how Reed thinks. For instance, W.E.B. Du Bois’ classic The Souls of Black Folk helped him to start a novel. Currently, he is in the midst of finishing two, one of which he started as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan.
College was a busy time for Reed. In addition to starting the novel, he wrote poems; worked as a pizza guy, video store clerk and groundskeeper; watched movies (“on average twice a week”); and led a free-jazz band. Reed stayed at Michigan to receive an M.F.A. in fiction, and later, in Chicago, he found a job teaching subjects such as Toni Morrison and basic reading.
In 2005, Reed started classes at Cornell and studied cinema and experimental poetry. Having received his Ph.D. last spring, he now teaches on, among other subjects, poetics and U.S. slavery. As a teacher, he hopes to instill in students an intellectual curiosity and a sense “that the work that we do matters, that details matter.” As an academic, he hopes to become an “intellectual’s intellectual,” a man courteous and deeply invested in his work.
This year, he will publish research on Richard Wright’s Native Son and on the relationship between hip-hop music and the diaspora.