Anton Smith

Faculty Advisor: John Carlos Rowe & Judith Jackson Fossett (Co-Chairs) Status: Alumnus

Contact Information


Biographical Sketch

Anton was born and raised in Riverhead, a suburban town that is about 90 minutes east of New York City. He moved from New York to Charlottesville, Virginia where he attended the University of Virginia and studied Classics and Afro-American literature. Currently, he is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Southern California studying American Studies and Ethnicity under the direction of John Carlos Rowe and Judith Jackson Fossett. As a dissertation project, he is examining how ecstasy shapes the spiritual development of post World War II fictional Afro-American communities. Along the way, he has taught a variety of courses during his graduate studies. Before returning to graduate school at USC in 2003, Anton lectured at UC Riverside in the Department of Ethnic Studies, teaching courses in African American Studies and Third World literature. Additionally, he was a teaching assistant in the Communication Studies and Afro-American Studies programs at UCLA where he conducted discussion sections that explored the role of social protest as a force in modern democratic society and focused on film as a medium of mass communication, showing how documentaries and feature films address issues of race and cultural representation. For the past five years, Anton has served as a composition instructor and tutor for UCLA’s Academic Advancement Program. At USC, he has worked as a teaching assistant in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity, facilitating classroom discussions on a wide range of topics, from race and class in Los Angeles to the growth and development of the American West.


  • B.A. Classics, University of Virginia, 05/1999
  • M.A. University of California, Los Angeles, 06/2002
  • M.A. American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California, 07/2007

Employment History

  • Lecturer, University of California, Riverside, 2003 - 2003
  • Lecturer, University of California, Los Angeles, 2006 - 2006
  • Lecturer, University of California, Los Angeles, 2007 - 2007


Summary Statement of Research Interests

  • “Stepping Out On Faith: Representing Spirituality in African American Literature from the Late Harlem Renaissance to the Civil Rights Movement” examines how black writers use the physical landscape in their narratives to represent spirituality in African American communities. Anton’s project will investigate how the representation of certain spaces, from the nightclub and the street corner to the porch and the courtroom, prepare black characters for ecstatic experiences. Consequently, part of his study looks at black spirituality as a set of disappearances and reappearances that reflects the discipline and comportment of the black body. Charles H. Long, Anthony B. Pinn, and James H. Evans are among the scholars who have analyzed the representation of ritualized behavior and performances that capture what African American culture considers spiritual. Moreover, his study will also discuss the ways in which a blues aesthetic work with space to facilitate the transmission of spirituality in fictional African American communities. Lastly, his project also considers the relationship between black spirituality, ecstasy and testifying. Drawing upon Henri Lefevre’s notion of space as “produced and modified over time and through its use,” his dissertation will look at how certain landscapes work on the black body to produce ecstatic representations of spirituality in black fictional communities. His dissertation explores the social implications of the presence of spirituality in African American communities in the writings of such authors as Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin. Drawing on the linguistic theories of female development by Geneva Smitherman and Marcylena Morgan, as well as the Black Feminist discourse of Patricia Hill Collins as a framework to interpret Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, part of his study explores how black women use spaces such as the porch and the courtroom to create new spiritual constructs and alternative understandings of community through storytelling. With Ellison’s Invisible Man, Anton carves out a place for a spiritual approach to understanding the power of representation in black literature by examining the role of sermonic rhetoric in the Battle Royal scene and the eviction of the old couple. Lastly, Anton considers the street, the altar, and the storefront church in Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain as spaces where spirituality is affirmed and contested.

Conference Presentations

  • “Harlem, the Apollo Theater, and Place: Toward Understanding Black Comedic Performance” , 4/2005

Honors and Awards

  • Provost’s Ph.D. Fellowship, University of Southern California, 8/25/2007-5/30/2008  
  • Irvine Foundation Fellowship, University of Southern California, 8/26/2003-5/30/2007  
  • Graduate Opportunity Program Fellowship, University of California, Los Angeles, 9/25/2000-6/30/2001  



  • Department of American Studies & Ethnicity
  • University of Southern California
  • 3620 South Vermont Avenue
  • Kaprielian Hall 462
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-2534