NEH grant to support enhanced teaching of African-American literature

September 09, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a $173,839 grant to Penn State's Africana Research Center to organize a summer institute for college and university faculty and graduate students nationwide to examine contemporary debates in African-American literary studies. The goal also is to collaboratively develop critical tools necessary to assess the primary texts and to expand the pool of classroom resources for use in their courses.

Twenty-five faculty and advanced graduate students will meet July 9-27, 2012, and attend seminars during the summer institute. Three distinguished faculty and experts on African-American literature will be lead lecturers Trudier Harris, University of North Carolina; Maryemma Graham, University of Kansas; and Dana Williams, Howard University. Topics such as folklore, literature and digital technology, forms of urban literature, post-soul/black/race, the graphic novel and Africana approaches to literature will be presented by guest lecturers Shirley Moody-Turner, Penn State; Evie Shockley, Rutgers; Eve Dunbar, Vassar; Greg Carr, Howard; Howard Rambsy, (SIUE); and L.H. Stallings, Indiana University.

The summer institute is part of a broader initiative that includes a Cornell University-based journal on contemporary African-American literature to spotlight key moments in African-American literature such as the New Negro and Black Arts Movements. Participants also will have an opportunity to explore historic sites of abolitionist activity in the region during a field trip led by recent Penn State doctoral graduate Donna King, and also visit the University Libraries' Charles Blockson collection of African-American literature and memorabilia.

Lovalerie King, associate professor of English and director of the Africana Research Center, said she is "thrilled to have received NEH funding for this very worthwhile endeavor, especially at a time when many question the viability of a African-American literature as a distinct and continuing tradition within itself."

The critical issues and questions to be examined at the upcoming institute were among those explored during a 2009 Penn State conference on contemporary African-American literature. As a follow-up to the conference, conference co-organizers solicited chapters from participants and others for a co-edited volume titled "The Living Canon: Contemporary Essays in African American Literature," which is under contract with Indiana University Press.

Application information will be available through the site or All applications are due March 1, 2012.


Last Updated September 15, 2011