Faculty Athletics Representative
Klapper Hall, Room 734
You can find my short CV here.
My research interests are eclectic but unified. Two of my earliest articles were on popular music in the US in the rock era (and I still have more to say about Joni Mitchell!). My first book project looks at the transatlantic performance history of Shakespeare’s Othello–and that play’s implication in the emergence of a white community that aspired to a monopoly on legitimate interpretation. New work on the eighteenth-century prehistories of Black Shakespeare criticism grows out of my teaching of early Black Atlantic writers. Across these disparate areas, I find myself returning to the problem of uneven distribution of profits, authority, prestige, pleasure, and protection: what are the mechanisms that facilitate and sustain these inequalities? Can scholarship aid in strategizing for how to disrupt the reproduction of social inequality? Can that intellectual work be communal, enjoyable, and inspiring?
I regularly teach English 241 and 244, undergraduate methods courses that introduce students to the uses of history and of theory to the study of literature. In the other elective courses I teach, either theory or history plays a significant role.
Recent electives and MA courses include:
ENG 308 African American Drama: In this course, students investigate the socio-historical forces and artistic strategies that have produced otherworldly thinking in African American Drama. The course traces African American writers’ responses to the long shadow of Shakespeare’s seventeenth-century blackamoors, the boom in blackface performance in the nineteenth-century US, and the use of blackness in literary and dramatic modernism. At the same time, the course explores pan-African connections, with Black writers from Africa and the Caribbean.
ENG 348 Early Black Atlantic: The primary goal of this course is to stimulate historical imaginations about the lives of African descendants during a time in which dislocation and the politics of archival exclusion have created great silences. The African descendants under consideration operated under specific constraints, shrewdly assessed their world, and used literacy, imposture, religious conversion, self-sale, and name changes to seize liberties not meant for them. In the process, they named themselves both individually and collectively in ways that revealed their analysis of their present, the boundaries of their community, and their vision of the future.
ENG 742 Shakespeare: This course has two basic aims: to increase students’ technical ability to read Shakespearean text and to extend their knowledge of the politics surrounding the Shakespeare industry. The actor and playwright from Stratford has been dead for over four centuries, but his name remains at the center of any contest over Anglo/American cultural heritage (See “Wait, Can They Still Study Shakespeare?” in the September 18, 2020 Chronicle of Higher Education). What are the mediations that have kept and keep “Shakespeare” before the public? What persons and institutions have pursued cultural and political goals by printing or staging Shakespeare—and what outcomes does your pedagogy foster? What do you need to learn in order to undertake Shakespeare? For what parts of the Shakespeare legend might you want to serve as undertaker?
Inkface: Othello and the Formation of White Interpretive Community (forthcoming, University of Virginia Press, 2023)
Smith, Cassander L., Miles Parks Grier, and Nicholas Jones, eds. Early Modern Black Diaspora Studies: A Critical Anthology. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
Articles and Book Chapters
“Black/White.” In Shakespeare / Text: Contemporary Readings in Textual Studies, Editing and Performance, edited by Claire M. L. Bourne, 319–42. New York: The Arden Shakespeare, 2021.
“Staging the Cherokee Othello: An Imperial Economy of Indian Watching” in The William and Mary Quarterly, January 2016. (Honorable Mention American Society for Theatre Research)
“Inkface: The Slave Stigma in England’s Early Imperial Imagination.” In Scripturalizing the Human: The Written as the Political, edited by Vincent L. Wimbush, 193–220. New York: Routledge, 2015.
“Said the Hooker to the Thief: ‘Some Kind of Way Out’ of Rockism,” in The Journal of Popular Music Studies, March 2013.
“The Only Black Man at the Party: Joni Mitchell Enters the Rock Canon,” in Genders, Fall 2012.
“Having Their Cake… and Outlawing It, Too: How the War on Terror Expands Racial Profiling by Pretending to Erase It,” in Politics and Culture, February 2006.
“Why (and How) August Wilson Marginalized White Antagonism: A Note for Hollywood Producers.” Los Angeles Review of Books, April 12, 2021.
“Honey and Haterade: For Obama’s Beyhive.” Avidly: a LA Review of Books Channel, July 16, 2015.