Senior Lecturer in Literature
I am an interdisciplinary specialist in African American literature and American popular culture. I joined York St John in 2013 and I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2017. I hold a First Class BA (Hons) degree in American Studies, an MA degree (Distinction) in American Literature, and a PhD in literature from the University of Sheffield. I am also an alumna of The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (study abroad 2004/5) where I specialised in American literature and African American studies. I have held a variety of roles at York St John including School Learning and Teaching Lead and Acting Subject Director of American Studies.
My writing has been published by The Guardian and I have been a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. In 2013 I was appointed to The Runnymede Trust’s Emerging Scholars Forum, which brought together 30 of the UK’s brightest and most promising early-career academics working on race. Before joining York St John, I was a teaching associate and project officer at The University of Sheffield and I provided American literature courses for adult learners through the Workers Education Association. I am a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the British Association of American Studies.
I contribute to undergraduate and postgraduate teaching on the English Literature and American Studies programmes. I teach and direct across a wide variety of modules including:
1EN601: Writing, Research and Literature
1AS203: Introduction to American Literature
1EN603: Theorising Literature: Power and Identity
2EN605: From Harlem to Hip-Hop: African American Literature and Culture
3EN290: Gender and Sexualities
MAS004: Alternative Americas
My research explores race, gender, and sexuality in contemporary African American literature and American popular culture. I’m especially interested in the performative and writerly processes involved in constructing, pluralising, queering, and destabilising notions of blackness, whiteness, masculinity, and femininity (including passing and drag). I am currently preparing my first book, Contemporary African American Women Writers and Passing (under contract with Palgrave Macmillan, New York). This monograph explores contemporary re-imaginings of racial passing in the work of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Dorothy West, and Gloria Naylor (among others). Previous projects include published chapters on pro-wrestling, African American comedy, and the singer, model, and performer Grace Jones.
I welcome enquires from PhD applicants interested in writing on representations of race/gender/sexuality in African American literature or popular culture – please do get in touch!
- Contemporary African American Women Writers and Passing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (under contract).
- “Grace Jones: Cyborg Memoirist.” Music/Memory/Memoir. Robert Edgar, Fraser Mann, Helen Pleasance. New York: Bloomsbury, 2019.
- “Parodying Racial Passing in Chappelle’s Show and Key & Peele.” Comedy and the Politics of Representation: Mocking the Weak. Eds. Helen Davis and Sarah Illot. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
- “Grappling and Ga(y)zing: Gender, Sexuality, and Performance in the WWE Debut of Goldust.” Performance and Pro Wrestling. Eds. Broderick Chow, Laine Eero, Claire Warden. London: Routledge, 2016.
- “Critical Reception: Zora Neale Hurston and the Paradox of Patronage.” Critical Insights: Zora Neale Hurston. Sharon Lynette Jones. Ipswich: Salem Press, 2013.
- ‘“Passing for white”: how a taboo film genre is being revived to expose racial privilege.’ The Guardian. August 2018.
- “Black, female, and postgraduate: why I cannot be the only one.” The Guardian, May 2013.
Selected Conference Papers
- “Passing Amid Protest: Imitation of Life, One Life to Live, and Passing Narratives in 1968.” The Joint 32nd European Association for American Studies & 63rd British Association for American Studies Conference. Kings College London, April 2018.
- [Keynote] “Race, Place, Grace.” York St John MA Student Symposium, York St John University, June 2016.
- “Beyond the Passing-For-White Figure in Post-Black Comedy.” Race in the Americas (RITA) Seminar Series (Passing and Colourism), University of Leeds, March 2014.
- [Invited Speaker] “Using African American Literature in BME Widening Participation.” HEA Sponsored Event - Teaching African American Literature and Culture, University of Durham, January 2014
- [Invited Speaker] “Breaking into the Academy.” Runnymede Trust – Race and HE Seminar, University of Manchester, October 2013.
- [Invited Speaker] “Using Pedagogy to Celebrate Diversity.” Critical Pedagogies Conference University of Edinburgh, September 2013.
- [Panel Discussion] “Why is my curriculum white?” Broaden My Bookshelf/Black History Month, The University of Huddersfield, October 2018.
- [Panel Discussion] “Performance and Professional Wrestling.” Everybody’s Reading Festival, Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester, October 2017.
- Events: Black History Month (2012 – present): I have been actively engaged in Black History Month events in the Yorkshire region for some time now and have organised film screenings, produced films, contributed to panel discussions, liaised with local arts organisations, engaged with local policy makers and politicians, and worked with schoolchildren to celebrate Black culture and history.
Radio: “Book at Bedtime: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.” BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, July 2013 (interviewed by Jenni Murray).