I am a writer and an assistant professor jointly appointed in the Department of English and the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. My academic research is concerned with the intersection between politics and aesthetics in African American literature, postwar or post-45 literary history, and Black Studies. My first monograph The Blue Period: Black Writing in the Early Cold War (University of Chicago Press, 2024) argues for a reinterpretation of black literary aesthetics in the early Cold War and for the value of a discrete periodization of that era. I am also interested in modernism, film, poetics and translation. While a graduate student at Princeton I founded a Digital Humanities project based on the Sylvia Beach archives held at Princeton’s Firestone Library called Mapping Expatriate Paris. My writing on culture, politics, and literature has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, Dissent, The New Republic and n+1. I also serve as an editor at The Point and as literary fiction editor (with my colleague Tara Menon) at Public Books.
In “Proust au téléphone: Placer la Recherche sur écoute.” Transposition 6 (2016) I wrote about the art of listening in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. In “Form and the Anticolonial Novel: William Gardner Smith’s The Stone Face.” Novel 55, no. 1 (May 1, 2022) I ask whether an anti-colonial novel is a coherent possibility, with The Stone Face (recently republished by NYRB Classics) as a principal case study. I have contributed chapters to several edited volumes including:
“The Essay, Abolition, and Racial Blackness.” In The Cambridge Companion to The Essay, edited by Kara Wittman and Evan Kindley, 126–40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022.
“Postwar Literary Aesthetics.” In Ralph Ellison in Context, edited by Paul Devlin, 290–99. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.
“The Blues in Print: Wright’s ‘Blueprint for Negro Writing’ Reconsidered.” In Richard Wright in Context, edited by Michael Nowlin, 205–14. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.
As an editor I am proud to have been selected to bring W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk to the newly launched Norton Library series in 2022. You can listen to a podcast I did about working on that project here. I am also co-editor with Joshua Bennett of an anthology of African American poetry, Minor Notes Vol 1. I also wrote an introduction for the new Dalkey Archive edition (in its first reprinting since 1973) of Vincent O. Carter’s long neglected modernist memoir, The Bern Book.
My essay collection Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul? was the winner of the Whiting Award for Nonfiction in 2022. It includes some of my more well-known pieces on trap music, on Afropessimism, and on many other subjects in the visual arts, poetry, and literature. The London Review of Books hosted a conversation with myself and Adam Shatz where we discussed many themes and ideas from that collection and our overlapping interests in black music, literature, and cultural expression.
My novel The Fugitivities was published by Melville House in 2021. Caleb Azumah Nelson reviewing it in the New York Times said the “prose, agile as a pianist in full flow, dances across the page.”