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Michelle Gordon

Assistant Professor of English and Gender Studies

Contact Information
Phone: (213) 740-2815
Office: THH 420


Biographical Sketch

Recently arrived from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Michelle Gordon specializes in American literature and African American Studies, with an emphasis on literary radicalism, intellectual history, black women's studies, and urban cultural studies in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century US. Secondary specialties include multi-cultural American writing, Caribbean literature and culture, black American music, and popular culture. Currently, Professor Gordon teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in American literature and culture, black slave and neo-slave narratives, and the Harlem Renaissance. Professor Gordon's book manuscript, "Bringing Down Babylon: The Chicago Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and African American Freedom Struggles, 1931-1969," offers a local literary history of black Chicago's two most vibrant literary movements, the Chicago Renaissance (1935-1953) and the local Black Arts Movement (1965-1975). The project explores these explicitly radical movements' relationships to each other, and to the contemporaneous grassroots freedom struggles with which Chicago's black writers directly engaged. "Bringing Down Babylon" resituates the cultural work and activism of Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, Lorraine Hansberry, Theodore Ward, and Haki Madhubuti, exploring their grassroots and aesthetic work amidst artistic, political, and intellectual networks within Chicago, across the nation, and within the African Diaspora. Professor Gordon's most recent article, "'Somewhat Like War': The Aesthetics of Segregation, Black Liberation, and A Raisin in the Sun," appeared in a special issue of African American Review.


Ph.D. English, University of Wisconsin - Madison, 8/2008
M.A. Afro-American Studies, University of Wisconsin - Madison, 8/2002

Academic Appointment, Affiliation, and Employment History

Assistant Professor, University of Southern California, 2008-2009   

Description of Research

Summary Statement of Research Interests

Michelle Gordon primarily works in 19th- and 20th-century American literature and culture. Her areas of interest include African American literary and cultural studies, multi-cultural American writing, popular culture, black women's studies, and radical intellectual history and activism. Her current research on the radical literary history of 20th-century black Chicago engages and responds to the new grassroots civil rights studies, the transatlantic turn in American Studies, current critical reevaluations of the literary Old Left, and black feminist theory. Her research on literary black Chicago investigates under-theorized aspects of culture's roles in sustaining mass freedom struggles, and explores the relationships between aesthetic experimentation and self-determination. Her current research establishes crucial artistic and activist links among the Chicago Renaissance (1935-1953), the local and national Black Arts Movement (1965-1975), the Harlem Renaissance (1919-1935) and Negritude (1935-1968). In addition to the black Chicago Renaissance, she has written about Harlem Renaissance poet and folklorist Sterling Brown, the radical aesthetics of Lorraine Hansberry's landmark drama, A Raisin in the Sun (1959), and shifting 19th-century white supremacist narratives about Voodoo in New Orleans and their relationships to the local and national color line.

Research Specialties

20th-c African American literary and cultural movements; 19th-c and 20th-c narratives of white supremacy; the interracial literary Left; freedom struggle history; black women's studies; women writers; migration, exile, diaspora studies; black aesthetics

Funded Research

Contracts and Grants Awarded

Black Metropolis Research Consortium Fellowship in African-American Studies (Black Metropolis Research Consortium), Black Metropolis Research Consortium, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, $184,000, 06/01/2010-07/23/2010  

USC Funding

Advancing Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences Initiative/Office of the Provost. Bringing Down Babylon: The Chicago Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and African American Freedom Struggles, 1931-1969: This award supports the completion of a book manuscript that offers a local literary history of black Chicago. It examines two major literary movements and their relation to freedom struggles., $7,500, 2010-2011   


Book Chapter

Gordon, M. Y. (2010). The Chicago Renaissance. 1st Malden, MA: The Blackwell Companion to African American Literature/Blackwell Publishing.
Gordon, M. Y. (2010). "'Somewhat Like War': The Asethetics of Segregation, Black Liberation, and A Raisin in the Sun". New York, NY: State University of New York.

Book Review

Gordon, M. Y. (2011). Book Review: Writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance. Journal of Illinois History. pp. 300-01.
Gordon, M. Y. (2011). Book Review: The Muse of Bronzeville. Journal of Illinois History.

Journal Article

Gordon, M. Y. (2012). "Midnight Scenes and Orgies": Public Narratives of Voodoo in New Orleans and Post-Bellum Fears of Desegregation. American Quarterly. Vol. 64 (4)
Gordon, M. Y. (2008). "Somewhat Like War": The Aesthetics of Segregation, Black Liberation, and A Raisin in the Sun. African American Review/St. Louis University Press. Vol. 42 (1, Special Issue: Representing Segregation), pp. 121-33.
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