Melissa Daniels-Rauterkus

Associate Professor of English
Melissa Daniels-Rauterkus
Pronouns She / Her / Hers Email Office THH 439 Office Phone (213) 740-2808


I’m a native-born Southern Californian and a first-generation college graduate. I attended the University of La Verne and Claremont Graduate University before completing my Ph.D. in English at Northwestern University.

My work focuses on the politics of racial representation in African American literature and culture. I primarily identify as a literary historian and as someone who is very invested in questions of genealogy and periodization. I’m most fascinated by the tensions and intersections between Blackness and whiteness.

My book, Afro-Realisms and the Romances of Race: Rethinking Blackness in the African American Novel (LSU Press, 2020), which won the SAMLA Studies Book Award and received Honorable Mention for the William Sanders Scarborough Prize from the MLA, contests the long-standing idea that African Americans didn’t write American literary realism, and the inverse misconception that white realists didn’t make (and couldn’t have made) contributions to African American literature.

In making such a provocative claim, I challenge facile generalizations about what constitutes a “Black text,” how we define the project of literary realism, and problematic assumptions about literary history. My sense is that we need to move beyond segregated approaches to the work of interpretation as well as misguided notions of a fixed racial identity/cultural property to embrace a definition of African American literature that is animated by and organized around Black writers and their meditations on Blackness, but also porous enough to include certain non-Black writers and their representations of race/engagement with Black rhetorical forms, so that we might theorize, in more complex ways, the larger, social order that constitutes race in America.

I’m currently researching and writing about the New Jack Swing and the Black 1990s.


  • Ph.D. English, Northwestern University, 2012
  • M.A. English, Northwestern University, 2006
  • M.A. English, Claremont Graduate University, 2005
  • B.A. English, University of La Verne, 2003
  • Tenure Track Appointments

    • Assistant Professor of English, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2013 – 2017
  • Book

    • Daniels-Rauterkus, M. (2020). Afro-Realisms and the Romances of Race: Rethinking Blackness in the African American Novel. Baton Rouge: LSU Press. URL

    Book Chapters

    • Daniels-Rauterkus, M. (2023). “The New Jack Renaissance: Black Literary and Cultural Production and the Institutionalization of African American Literary Studies”. African American Lit. in Transition, 1990-2000 Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP.
    • Daniels-Rauterkus, M. (2022). “Andrea Lee’s Europe: Race, Interracial Desire, and Transnationalism”. The Oxford Handbook of 20th-C. American Lit pp. 281-298. New York: Oxford UP. URL

    Journal Article

    • Daniels, M. (2013). The Limits of Literary Realism: Of One Blood’s Post-Racial Fantasy”. Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters. Vol. 36 (1), pp. 158-177.
    • Daniels, M., Laski, G., Bradley, A., Ernest, J., Diggs Colbert, S., Castronovo, R., Holland, S. P., Warren, K. W. (2011). “Assessing What Was African American Literature?; or The State of the Field in the New Millennium”. African American Review. Vol. 44 (4), pp. 567-591.
    • SAMLA Studies Book Award for Outstanding Scholarly Monograph, 2021-2022
    • Honorable Mention, MLA William Sanders Scarborough Prize, 2020-2021
  • Other Service to the University

    • Dornsife Faculty Council, 2019 – 2021
    • Academic Senate, 2019-2020