Melissa Daniels-Rauterkus

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

Research & Practice Areas

African American Literature and African American Studies


I’m a Southern California native, born in Duarte and raised in Monrovia, and I research and teach classes in African American literature and culture.

I’m currently working on a new book entitled “Fly Girl in the Academy,” a memoir and study of contemporary African American literature. In this collection of essays, I use autocritography as a means of illuminating my experiences as a Black woman in academia and African American writing after the Civil Rights era. I posit that this merger of personal narrative and literary criticism can open up new ways to read and write about literature that may resonate with a broader audience and attract more students, especially Black ones, to literary studies in an era of STEM and plummeting humanities enrollments. 

My first 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 MLA’s William Sanders Scarborough Prize, focuses on literary production during the nadir, 1877-1919. I explore how Black and white writers used more speculative forms of realism to reimagine Black representation in fiction as well as the future of race in America. In this way, I challenge facile generalizations about what constitutes a “Black text,” how we define the project of literary realism, and problematic assumptions about literary history and the segregated nature of literary invention.  



  • 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
  • Research Keywords

    African American Literature and African American Studies

    Research Specialties

    African American Literature and African American Studies

  • 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
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