Letter of Introduction Michelle Magnero

Hello! My name is Michelle and I am a 2nd year doctoral student in twentieth-century American literature.  My main research area is in mid-to-late-twentieth-century African American lit, and my minor field is Black Cultural Studies. In addition to these areas, I also have an interest in Rhetoric and Composition. My proposed dissertation combines approaches to African American literary theory with Film and Television studies. What I am looking at in this research is how blackness gets represented in African American literature and on black TV sitcoms in the 1970s, how these representations were interpreted by white audiences, and investigating how or in what ways these literary and televisual representations were comparatively effective or ineffective in changing public perceptions of blackness in the US.

For this class in African Novel I would like to learn more about the decolonization movements in the mid-twentieth-century and how these movements influenced the development of US Black Power philosophies. Additionally, I am interested in studying gender in the novels we are reading. Specifically, I would like to examine how African masculinity and femininity get figured in these texts and for what reasons, and also how these representations of gender change in different racial and social contexts. Overall I am looking forward to this class, and especially to reading Americanah and Nervous Conditions with you.

As far as my background in Postcolonial Studies goes, I have taken two courses in the field, one as an undergraduate and one as an MA student. In the undergrad class, we read many North African novels such as Naguib Mahfouz’s Miramar and Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North. In the grad class, I explored how Paul Gilroy’s theory of postimperial melancholia in Britain applies to the white British working classes in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. For my independent book review project in that seminar, I read and presented on Coetzee’s Disgrace. It was great meeting all of you and I look forward to working with you this semester!

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