Ph. D. English Language and Literature, Cornell University
B.A., M.F.A, English Language and Literature and Creative Writing, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
My teaching and research focus on poetics and 20th/21st century African American and African diaspora literature and culture, especially poetry and music. My work investigates the intersections of aesthetics and politics in literature, film and other media. My current project, Freedom Time: The Politics and Poetics of Black Experimental Writing, is forthcoming from The Johns Hopkins University Press in Fall 2014. That book offers a theoretical account of the black experimental writing that has emerged in the years following decolonization in the Caribbean and the Civil Rights era in the U.S. “Black Experimental Writing” is at once a literary historical development, and a concept through which I analyze the ways writing engages race and expands the possibilities of expression. Through extended analysis of work by N. H. Pritchard, NourbeSe Philip, Terrance Hayes, Kamau Brathwaite, Claudia Rankine, Douglas Kearney, Harryette Mullen, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Nathaniel Mackey, Freedom Time’s analyses privilege poetics—attention to the means by which literature achieves its effects—to argue that form drives the politics of writing, rather than vice-versa. Taking this approach, this book intervenes in ongoing studies of African American and Afro-Caribbean poetry, and responds to recent challenges that critical attention to black expressive culture is necessarily apolitical. Through attention to formal innovation, this book argues that black experimental writing pushes the limits of expression in order to extend the limits of thought and articulate different political questions and solutions.
I am now working on a new project devoted to what I am calling “phonographic poetry”: African diaspora poetry performed with musical accompaniment and disseminated primarily through sound recording technology. This project allows me to connect the practices of institutions and practices of poetry and jazz, and to theorize collaborations. Rather than pursuing the more typical question of what music does for writing, this project also allows me to ask what kind of legitimating or other work poetry might be doing for otherwise “mute” music, with sound recording serving as the pivot between the two. Simultaneously, situating the practice within a post-WWII mass market, this project interrogates the pleasures and politics of listening in the formation of alternative communities.
- “After the End of the World: Sun Ra and the Ends of History,” Black Camera Vol. 5, No. 1, Fall 2013.
- “A Woman is a Conjunction: The Ends of Improvisation in Claude McKay’s Banjo: A Story Without a Plot,” Callaloo 36.3, Summer 2013.
- “Another Map of the South Side: Native Son as Postcolonial Novel.” African American Review, Winter 2012.
- “At the Border—What Remains, Abides: Fragmentation, Nation and the Arrivant.” The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature, June 2011.
Music and African American Literature; Representations of U.S. Slavery; Major English Poets; Caribbean Poetry; Modern Poetry; African American Literature 1790-1903