PhD, Indiana University, 2001
MA, University of Virginia, 1996
BA, Indiana University, 1994
I work and teach primarily in the fields of African Diaspora literature and American Studies. My research areas also include the novel, poetry, the essay, jazz studies, cultural studies, literary criticism and theory, and pragmatism.
In my first book, The Shadow and the Act (University of Chicago Press, 2009), I connected writings on jazz to the philosophical tradition of pragmatism, particularly its support for more freedom for individuals and more democratic societies. In that work, I examine the way that Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin and Amiri Baraka responded to and elaborated on that philosophical lineage, showing how they significantly broadened it by addressing the African American experience, especially its aesthetics. Ultimately, I argue, the trio enacted pragmatist principles by effectively communicating the social and political benefits of African Americans fully entering society, thereby compelling America to move closer to its democratic ideals.
Currently, Iím at work on three book manuscripts: an essay collection about contemporary American literary art and popular music; one on American artistic production in Age of Terrorism (2000-2015) (examining such artists as Kara Walker, Junot Diaz, David Simon, and others in relation to narratological strategies, questions about citizenship, and definitions of terrorism); and a study of John Edgar Widemanís recent works and his metaphorization of various cultural practices as a means for producing performance and narrative theories.