Symposium: “Place and Displacement in African American Literature”

March 2, 2012
10:00 amto4:30 pm

Knight Library
Browsing Room
1501 Kincaid St.

  • Eve Dunbar (Vassar), “Place and Displacement in the Ethnographic and Literary Writings of Zora Neale Hurston”
  • Courtney Thorsson (U Oregon), “Vertamae Grosvenor’s Revolutionary Recipes”
  • Emily Lordi (U Mass), “’Move’: Literary Historiography and the Placing of Lucille Clifton”
  • Salamishah Tillet (U Penn), “African Mailman: Nina Simone, Africa, and a Global Civil Rights Aesthetics”
  • Jennifer Williams (Goucher College), “The Erotics of Travel in African American Women’s Fiction”
  • Karla Holloway (Duke), response to panelists and “Legal Boundedness of Identity in African American and African Diasporic Literature”

This event is part of a 2011-2012 collaboration between two research interest groups (RIGs) at the UO’s Center for the Study of Women in Society—the Américas RIG and the Law, Culture, and Society RIG—on the theme of “Service and Servitude.” The gathering of this group of scholars here in Eugene is possible through the support of the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS), Department of English, Department of Ethnic Studies, the Oregon Humanities Center, and the UO School of Law.

Participant Bios

Eve Dunbar is assistant professor of English at Vassar College. Professor Dunbar specializes in African American literature and cultural expression, black feminism, and theories of black diaspora. In addition to teaching in the English Department, she is an active contributor to Vassar’s Africana Studies, Women’s Studies, and American Culture Programs. She is completing her manuscript project tentatively entitled “Black is a Region,” which explores the aesthetic and political ties that bind literary genre, American nationalism, and black cultural nationalism in the literary works of mid-20th century African American writers. Professor Dunbar’s publications include an essay in African American Review entitled “Black is a Region: Segregation and Literary Regionalism in Richard Wright’s The Color Curtain” (2009). She is also a contributor to the African American National Bibliography (Oxford University Press, 2008) and has written book reviews that have appeared in print and online journals ranging from Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters to Post No Ills: A New American Review…of Reviews. In 2008-09, Professor Dunbar was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship in English by Rutgers University–New Brunswick. Her current research is on questions of place and displacement in the ethnographic and literary writings of Zora Neale Hurston.

Karla Holloway is the James B. Duke Professor of English, a professor of law, and affiliate faculty Women’s Studies and African American Studies at Duke University. Professor Holloway is the author of Private Bodies/Public Texts: Race, Gender, and a Cultural Bioethics (2011); Bookmarks: Reading in Black and White (2008); Passed On: African American Mourning Stories (2002); and Moorings and Metaphors: Figures of Culture and Gender in Black Women’s Literature (1991), among other works. Professor Holloway was recently elected to the Hastings Center Fellows Association—a selective group of leading researchers who have made a distinguished contribution to the field of bioethics. Her current research is on legal boundedness of identity in African American and African Diasporic Literature.

Emily Lordi is an assistant professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her first book (forthcoming, Rutgers UP) re-examines the work of twentieth-century African American writers such as Richard Wright and Nikki Giovanni through their engagements with classic black women singers such as Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin. Her next project will chart a cultural history of the concept of “soul.” She has served as the Music and Culture Book Review editor for Callaloo and is currently the editor for the Gallery Project at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Courtney Thorsson is an assistant professor of English at the University of Oregon. She teaches and studies African American literature from its beginnings to the present. Her forthcoming book, Women’s Work, argues that black women’s novels of the 1980s and ’90s reclaimed and revised cultural nationalism. Her writing has appeared in Callaloo and Atlantic Studies. Her article “James Baldwin and Black Women Writers” will appear in the Baldwin special issue of African American Review later this year. Professor Thorsson is currently at work on her second book, a study of culinary discourse in African American literature.

Salamishah Tillet, assistant professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, received her Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization in 2007, her M.A. in English from Harvard University, and her M.A. in Teaching from Brown University. In 2010-11, she was the recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellow for Career Enhancement and served as a visiting fellow at the Center of African American Studies at Princeton University. Tillet’s book Reconstructing Slavery, Reimagining Democracy: Race and Civic Estrangement in Post-Civil Rights America (Duke University Press, 2012) examines how contemporary African American artists and intellectuals re-imagine slavery as a metaphor for post-Civil Rights citizenship and as a model for racial democracy. With Hua Hsu, she is the coeditor of the forthcoming, The Day that Martin Died: Music, Memory, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2010, she co-edited the Callaloo Special Issue on Ethiopia and her work has appeared in Callaloo, Novel, Research in African Literatures, Savoring the Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara, and Violence in the Lives of Black Women: Battered, Black, and Blue. She is currently working on a book-length project on Nina Simone. Tillet is also a regular contributor to the online magazine The Root, and the co-founder of A Long Walk Home, Inc., a nonprofit organization that uses art therapy and the visual and the performing arts to end violence against girls and women. Her research interests include twentieth-century African-American literature, film, popular music, cultural studies, and feminist theory.

Jennifer Williams is a visiting assistant professor of Women’s Studies at Goucher College. Professor Williams’ research and teaching interests include twentieth-century Black Diasporic literature and culture; women, gender, and sexuality; trauma and migration; and visual culture. She has recently published reviews in Modern Fiction Studies and American Literature, and her article on Jean Toomer’s Cane appears in Southern Literary Journal. Professor Williams is currently working on a book manuscript that focuses on trauma, visuality, and black subjectivity.