Shawn Christian

Professor of English and African American Studies



Main Interests

Primarily a scholar of African American literature and culture, my specific research areas are the Harlem Renaissance, African American print culture, and (increasingly) the literature of the long Civil Rights Movement. I also teach a range of courses for the English department as well as African, African American, and Diaspora Studies, American Studies, and Women and Gender Studies. Complementing my work as a former actor and occasional director, I have participated in “post-play” discussions at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI and have served on the board of directors for the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities.

Curriculum Vitae


Ph.D., University of Michigan
M.A., Temple University
B.A., Florida State University

Research Interests

Though a good portion of academic year 2017-2018 for me was devoted to duties as Associate Provost, in fall 2017, I presented, “NAACP’s Crisis and the Cultivation of a New Negro Reader Abroad” at the annual Modernist Studies Association and was a panelist for Rhode Island College’s Open Books – Open Minds Forum on Race and Society’s discussion of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. In January 2018, I gave the keynote address for the Rhode Island Center for the Book’s Reading Across Rhode Island Kick-off for Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give.

Teaching Interests

20th century American literature, its criticism, and its histories:

  • English 401 Senior Seminar, “Collaborations in 20th Century African American Literature and Culture” (fall 2006); “Harlem Renaissance as a Usable Past” (fall 2007).
  • English 349 Harlem Renaissance and Modernity
  • English 347 Contemporary African American Fiction.
  • English 290 Approaches to Literature and Culture.
  • English 256 Cultural Diversity in US Fiction since 1945.
  • English 209 African American Literature and Culture.
  • English 101 College Writing, “Writing about Black Popular Culture” (fall 2003, spring 2004); “Writing about College” (fall 2004); “Writing about HOUSE Music” (fall 2005, spring 2007); “Writing about Rivalry” (fall 2007); “Writing about the ‘Rap on Race'” (spring and fall 2010).
  • First Year Seminar “‘Reading’ a Renaissance.”


The Harlem Renaissance and the Idea of a New Negro Reader (University of Massachusetts Press, 2016). https://www.umass.edu/umpress/title/harlem-renaissance-and-idea-new-negro-reader

Review, Spoofing the Modern; Satire and the Harlem Renaissance, by Darryl Dickson-Carr. ALH Online Review Series XIII. http://academic.oup.com/alh/pages/alh_review_series_13

“‘upon the young people of our race, by our own literature’: Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s ‘Negro Literature for Negro Pupils.'” Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers 33.2 (2016).

Review, Artistic Ambassadors: Literary and International Representation of the New Negro Era by Brian Russell Roberts. Journal of American Ethnic History 35.3 (Spring 2016): 113-114.

“Enacting ‘Smoke, Lilies, and Jade’ as Black Gay Print Culture.” Ethnic Studies Review 36.1,2 (Spring 2016 [2013]): 21-35.

“Mule Bone 2.0.” Pedagogy 15.2 (2015): 362-365.

“Love and Civil Rights in Perfect Peace.” Mid-Atlantic Writers Association Review (MAWA) 21 (2014): 78-86.

“A (New?) ‘Rap on Race’: Historicizing Calls for Racial Dialogue in the Early Years of Barak Obama’s Presidency” in Reading African American Experiences in the Obama Era: Theory, Advocacy, Activism (New York: Peter Lang, 2012).

“Between Black Gay Men: Artistic Collaboration and the Harlem Renaissance in Brother to Brother” in The Harlem Renaissance Revisited: Politics, Arts and Letters (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010).

Review, Founding Fictions of the Dutch Caribbean: Cola Debrot’s “My Black Sister” and Boeli van Leeuwen’s A Stranger on Earth, translated by Olga E. Roger and Joesph O. Aimone, Wadabagei: A Journal of the Caribbean and Its Diasporas v11.2 (2008).

Review, They Tell Me of a Home by Daniel Black, College Language Association Journal (March 2008).


Co-director (with former Assoc. Dean of Students Claudia Bell), Wheaton College production of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf (2004).

Student Projects

Honors Theses:

Seth Cosimini (English), “Building New Motherships: Artistry, Science Fiction, and the Hip Hop Concept Album”; director.

Lauren Provost (English), “Postcolonialism and Anglo-Saxon Literature: A Dialogue” (spring 2010); reader.

William Levenson (American Studies), “Fate, Faulkner, and the Fallen South: The Burden of History in Yoknapatawpha County”; reader.

Adara Meyers (English), “Emily Eden, Mary Carpenter, and the Gendered Mechanisms of Empire” (spring 2008); reader.

Ashley Smith (Anthropology), “‘How Indian Are You Anyway?’: The Abenaki of the Northeast and the ‘Indian Problem” for the 21st Century” (spring 2008); reader.

Alexandre Asancheyev (English), “Social death and civil rights: Theorizing three black subjects” (fall 2004); director.

Independent Studies:

Martin Chang, “Cane‘s Canonical Status” (spring 2011); Christopher Hank, “‘History’ in 20th Century American Fiction”(spring 2007); Timothy Johnson, “Critical Pedagogy” (spring 2007); Ashley Smith, “A Canon of Native American Fiction” (spring 2007); Melissa Lozano, “Miami”s Latinidad” (fall 2006); Ryann Galloway, “Black Women Directing Arts Institutions” (spring 2005); Sean Kelly, “American Men Writing Memoir”(spring 2004).