The wonderful world of words as literature and their many possibilities as meaningful articulations of ideas, cultures, and perspectives informs the art of teaching in the humanities. As Ayi Kwei Armah reminds us in The Eloquence of the Scribes, “[t]he best professional work, especially in the arts, grows out of the nurturing base of a tradition.” As a teacher, I am both careful and deliberate in my intent to reveal to students that the base of all writing and literary traditions is one to which they are cultural heirs and that these African inscription systems and literatures indeed undergird and nurture all of the humanities. From the oldest known book, The Instructions of Ptah Hotep, to the latest texts from our most distinguished writers, the production of literary art reminds us that available to us at our finger tips (whether through acts of reading or writing) is a world of knowledge and awareness, of creation and inspiration.
I try to encourage in my students both a love of language—an understanding of its capacity to liberate, to heal, and to change lives—and a shared commitment to communicate to others this love and understanding in ways and for reasons that are sometimes (and ironically) ineffably meaningful. My colleagues, too, enliven my teaching and scholarship. On any given day of the week, they can be seen positioned at the front of a classroom or sitting among their pupils in a semi-circle bearing witness to and about the literary and language traditions that animate their teaching and scholarship alike.
At every turn, I remind my students that they are heirs to an uninterrupted (though sometimes displaced) tradition of peoples who, indeed, value the eloquence of the scribe and the meaning (s)he produces. As they begin to understand more about the genealogy of African American literature and consider its relation to African literary traditions that are (re)membered and appropriated in North America, I remind them that finding new ways to enter and to engage this liberating tradition has restorative possibilities. I remind them, too, that the world awaits a literary and cultural revolution in Africana letters—one that is theirs for the making.
Ultimately, I encourage them to read, to write, and to think brilliantly without fail that they might be best equipped to imagine and to make manifest a better world.
Recent Course Offerings
African American Literature until 1940
African American Literature from 1940 to the Present
Great Debates in African American Literature
Major African American Author: Toni Morrison
Black Women Writers
Honors Humanities Seminar
Directed Readings for Honors
Writing, Literacy, and Discourse for English Majors
Writing Critical Reviews