Kweer: Black Maternity and the Bitter/Sweet Sound and Arc/Ark of Protest in the African American Elegiac Tradition

Kweer argues that the African American elegiac tradition, often read through the surface valence of mourning, in fact, springs from writers’ protest against their blackness serving as the prototypical marker of outsider-ness, which a cadre of scholars have named queerness. This study draws upon the self-affirming exceptionality of the kweer—a riff on the nominalism, quare, coined in the landmark text, Black Queer Studies (2005)—to propose a different natal lens for African American protest: the black maternal voice synonymous with the advent of African American literature and the American songbook.  Covering more than 260 years of African American literature, Kweer maps the ways that black women personae’s sexual and gender transgressions serve as insightful catalysts of dissent in the aftermath of chattel slavery and its cruel descendant, Jim Crow, throughout the global South. African American elegists make palpable the experiences that mark black women as forebears of a multiethnic American consciousness, complicating the relationship that their progeny, conceived under duress at best and by force at worst, have with their sexualities and what Hortense Spillers calls “the power of ‘yes’ to the female within.”


Peer-reviewed Journal Essays

“Birthing America’s Kweer: Motherless Children Preach the Gospel of Mercy.” south. LI.1 (Fall 2019): 298-317.

“ ‘The Sweet Meat of My Feelings’: The Ghost of LeRoi Jones and the (Re)Birth of a Nation.” Forthcoming in Callaloo (Elegy issue. Ed. Joshua Bennett; in production)


“ ‘She Is Twenty-Three Months Pregnant’: The Quare, Black Maternity, and Bob Kaufman’s Surreal Revision of the Migration Narrative.” (Obsidian, 41.2)

Book Reviews

Brother Mine: The Correspondence of Jean Toomer and Waldo Frank by Kathleen Pfeiffer. Callaloo 37.3 (Summer 2014): 735-739.

“The Beauty of Troubled Tongues.” Post No Ills. 22 January 2010.


“Rousing ‘Song’ rises with Angelou's tale of pain, persistence.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 13 April 2002.


Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, N.C., Fall 2019-Present)

                  Assistant Professor, Department of English

                                    CRW 100: Introduction to Creative Writing

                                    CRW 285: Documentary Poetics

                                    ENG 175: Multiethnic American Poetics
                                    ENG 302: “Black Is Beautiful”: African American Poetics and Aesthetics, 1919-2019

Mississippi University for Women (Columbus, Miss., Spring 2018-Present)

                  Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of English, Low-Residency MFA Faculty

                                    ENG 506: Poetry Workshop


The University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Ala., Fall 2016-Present)

                  Assistant Professor, Department of English

                                    ENG 200: Introduction to Creative Writing: The Living Writer (Fall 2018)

                                    ENG 249: African American Literature Survey (Fall 2016, Spring 2017)

                                    ENG 303: Poetry Tour (Fall 2016, Spring 2018)

                                    ENG 408: Special Topics: The Sonnet Sequence (Fall 2017)
                                    ENG 603: Poetry Workshop: Gendered Triumphs (Spring 2018)
                                    ENG 608: Special Topics: The Sonnet Sequence (Spring 2018)

                                    ENG 608: Special Topics: The Elegy (Fall 2016 Fall 2018)

                                    ENG 609: Limning The Art of … Series (Fall 2018)

                                    ENG 609: Playing in the Dark: Unleashing Childlike Curiosity (Fall 2017, Spring 2018)


Davidson College (Davidson, N.C., Fall 2015-Spring 2016)

                  Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of English

                                    WRI 101: Quare Harmonies, National Bodies: Rethinking “Queer” Through African American Poetics

                                    ENG 201: Professional Writing 

                                    ENG 202: Introduction to Creative Writing: Multi-genre

                                    ENG 203: Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry

                                    ENG 282: African American Literature: Four Centuries of Elegaic Protest
                                    ENG 382: Black Sexualities
                                    ENG 383: Black Literature Since 1953


Conference Presentations & Appearances

Oct. 8, 2019: “More Than a Metaphor: The Ethics of Writing Through a Legacy of Racialized Violence.” Frank Islam Anthenaeum Symposia Fall 2019 Series. Montgomery College. Germantown, Md.

July 25, 2019: “Lost Johnson, McKay Novels Extend the Arc of Satire in the New Negro Renaissance.” MLA International Symposium: “Remembering Lost Voices.” Universidade Católica Portuguesa-Lisbon.

July 24 2019: “Quaring Myths: The Poetics of Sun Ra and Gil Scott-Heron and the Black Maternal.” MLA International Symposium: “Remembering Lost Voices.” Universidade Católica Portuguesa-Lisbon. .

Nov. 3, 2018: “The Erotic Freedom of ‘Black Girl Magic’: Fungible Trope to ‘Pynk’ Power.” Society of Utopian Studies Conference: “Disruption, Displacement, Disorder.” With UA MFA Sarah Barnes. University of California-Berkeley Clark Conference Center.

April 6, 2018: “A Mandrake’s Call from the Nadir to the Instagram, Fakebook Generation: A Wild Plaint’s Pivotal Role in Shifting the Arc of Protest in the African American Elegaic Tradition.” College Language Association. Holiday Inn Chicago-Mart Plaza River North.

March 10, 2018: “Intersectional/Quare.” “Bless Our Hearts: Teaching While Queer in the South.” Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference. Tampa Waterside Marriott. With Douglas Ray, Lu Vickers, Julie Marie Wade, and Brandy T. Wilson.

March 9,  2018: “Complex Narratives: A VIDA Voices and Views Disability Focus.” With Lydia X.Z. Brown and Lynne DeSilva-Johnson. Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference. Tampa Convention Center.

Nov. 10, 2017: “Write Like a Mother and Don’t Shut Ya Mouth: Or Birthing Burden Hill and Envisioning Black Liberation Amid White Nationalist Terror.” Society of Utopian Studies. DoubleTree Downtown Memphis.

April 7, 2017: “The Lyric Line.” Hendrix College. Bertie Wilson Murphy Building. Conway, Ark.

Feb. 10, 2017: “Beyond Sex: The Poetics of Desire.” With Remica L. Bingham-Risher, Sarah McCall, and Tim Seibles. Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference: Washington, D.C. Marriott Marquis Salon 5.

Feb. 9, 2017: “Take Me to the Water: How Poets of Color Migrated South and Built an Inclusive and Growing Community.” Panel Chair. With John S. Blake, DaMaris Hill, Monifa Lemons Jackson, and Grace Shuyi Liew. Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference: Washington, D.C. Washington Convention Center 207B.

April 2, 2016:  Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Los Angeles, Calif.:  Prairie Schooner Reception.

November 19, 2015: "Will Read for Food!" Fundraiser for Interactive Resource Center.  Featured Reader w/Ansel Elkins and other UNC-Greensboro MFA Faculty.


October 19, 2015: “The Good Writer: Literary Ethics and the Literary Artist.” Panelist. Davidson College. With Amy Bagwell,
Jeff Jackson 
and Alan Michael Parker.

October 16, 2015: West End Poetry Festival, Carrboro, N.C. Featured Reader @ Flyleaf Books Opening Reception. With Tsitsi Jaji, Terry L. Kennedy, Maria Rouphail, Crystal Simone Smith, and Gideon Young.

May 1-2, 2015: Northeast Modern Language Association Conference

“Remixing Ethnicity, Place, and Creative Writing," “Love and Loss in Modernist Poetry,” and “Excavating the Voice: Literature
of Nineteenth-century African-American Women: Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson. ” With Jerry WempleChristina Milletti,
Ellen McWhorter,
Judah-Micah Lamar, et al. Northeast Modern Language Association Conference. Toronto, Ontario.
1-2 May 2015.


April 9, 2015: Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Minneapolis, Minn.: "The Big No: Taboo and Black Sexuality
in Contemporary American Poetry." With Kyle Dargan and Chet'la Sebree.


March 15, 2015: Sunday Kind of Love, Busboys and Poets, Washington, D.C.


Feb. 19, 2015:  Black History Month Program, Davidson College, Davidson, N.C.


Jan. 28, 2015: Visiting Writer Series, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattisburg, Miss.

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