Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


Shawn Christian

Shawn Christian

Associate Professor of English, African American, and American Studies
Associate Provost

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 American Studies, African, African American, and Diaspora 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 currently serve on the board of directors for the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities.


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

Main Interests

Although a good portion of academic year 2013-2014 for me was devoted to serving on the search committee for the College's eighth president, I did find time to further work on some important projects. I'm co-editing, with my colleague Fran Lassiter, a journal feature entitled, "Encounter Tradition, Make It New: Essays on New Approaches for Teaching the Harlem Renaissance." In the fall, I also presented related work on the Harlem Renaissance at the annual meeting of the History of Education Society and at "The Return of the Text: A Conference on the Cultural Value of Close Reading." This spring, I presented on Toni Morrison's novel _Home_ at the American Literature Association conference. This summer, I'm transitioning into my new role as an Associate Provost.

Research Interests

"The (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, College Language Association Journal (March 2008).

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."


Work In Progress

"Bearing the Weight of Inheritance in Topdog/Underdog and A Raisin in the Sun" (article under review)

"The New Negro Is Reading": Black Writers on the Harlem Renaissance's Other Literary Audience (book manuscript in progress)

"Embodied Memorials: James Baldwin, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Bayard Rustin" (article in progress)


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).