Tag Archives: Christina Sharpe

The SPB Q (Grad Chapter): Christina Sharpe

It’s my contention that every new grad student should have a Christina Sharpe in his or her life. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself since we first met, via Twitter back in the summer before I started my second year of doctoral study. She tweeted something that made me laugh; I tweeted back; a friendship was born. Every new grad student should have a Christina Sharpe because she has turned out to be that most wonderful of things: a friend outside of the cloistered world of your own campus, yet not so far away that she’s not around for a much-needed coffee break or convo session that makes you feel appreciated yet also keeps you grounded. She knows how to keep you sane when anxiety strikes but also knows how to laugh when the time is right. (Which I’m sure is why she’s such a great and popular mentor on campus!) … She also has incredible taste in soup.

Christina is an associate professor at Tufts University, where she’s affiliated with both the English and American Studies departments. Her areas of expertise include African American literature, multi-ethnic literature, African Diaspora literature, cultural studies, and visual culture (particularly around the African Diaspora and including such artists as Kara Walker, Robert Colescott, Isaac Julien, Tracey Rose).

Last month saw the Duke University Press publication of Christina’s first book, the fabulously-titled and deeply engaging Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post Slavery Subjects. Hailed by such academic notables as Sharon P. Holland and Ashraf Rushdy as “remarkable,” “lucid,” “thoroughly engrossing,” and “consistently intelligent,” Monstrous Intimacies is an ambitious and compelling work of literary and cultural criticism that maps the ways in which the turbulent violence(s) of slavery and its after-effects have still marked raced subjectivities into the present day. Sharpe’s book–which explores such artists as Bessie Head, Isaac Julien, Gayl Jones and Kara Walker–is the kind of broad-minded yet focused interdisciplinary work young scholars like myself dream about producing, multi-valent in the way you want your academic work to be, yet readable with supple prose that digs deep.

I’ve been begging this busy new friend of mine to do The SPB Q, and she finally got some time away from her committed teaching, student advising and campus service to turn out a good one. Read her book; look for her articles. And, if you’re in the Boston area, check her out on Tuesday November 2nd at Boston University (4pm – 6pm, in the African American Studies Library, 138 Mountfort Street, Brookline) where she’ll be doing a talk about her book and her work.

Name: Christina Sharpe

Hometown:  Philadelphia (but I was born in Bryn Mawr & grew up in Wayne, PA)

School/Year: BA/University of Pennsylvania; MA/PhD Cornell University

Dissertation Title: “The Work of Re-membering: Reading Gertrude Stein, Gayl Jones, Julie Dash, Cherríe Moraga and Bessie Head”

Favorite book[s]: Beloved, A Map to the Door of No Return

Favorite author: I’ll name three favorites —The constants are Toni Morrison, Dionne Brand, James Baldwin.  I sometimes get obsessed with authors and try to read everything they’ve written even if/especially if I find their work productively problematic.  One person in that category was Doris Lessing.

Favorite movie: Daughters of the Dust

Favorite song: Music goes in cycles but I can almost always listen to Gil-Scott Heron, Fela, Grace Jones, Massive Attack (w/Tricky), Stevie Wonder, P.J. Harvey, and Angie Stone.

Academic text that most influences your work: Wow, there are so many and they’ve changed over time but for my book I’d say: Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging; Hortense Spillers’ work (“Mama’s Baby,” “Interstices”); Saidiya Hartman’s Scenes of Subjection; Gayl Jones’s Corregidora; Fred Moten’s In the Break (Aunt Hester’s Scream); but also Marianne Hirsch on Post-Memory & Cathy Caruth’s Unclaimed Experience.

Academic[s] who most influence your work: Saidiya Hartman & Hortense Spillers.

Academic High: Finally finishing Monstrous Intimacies.

Life High: One life high is intimately connected with the work of teaching and mentoring.  It can be difficult work and I struggle with it at times but it is also capable of giving me moments of great sustaining joy.

You’re on a desert island and can only have 5 CDs/books/ or DVDs shipped in to you. What are they?

Your favorite quote:  Too hard.  But here’s one:

“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state  of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.” ~ James Baldwin

Guilty pleasure: Several, but I refuse the guilt!

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Links and Hijinks: Mad Men “origins”, “new” James Baldwin, True Blood’s Lafayette, & More Mel…

{Just a few tidbits til tomorrow…}

  • Mad Mad Mad Mad (Men) World: Next Sunday’s the day we find out what’s up with Don Draper and the gang on Mad Men…I certainly cannot wait to see what’s up a year after last year’s stunning finale. So, in honor of that return, here’s a question: is the hit show based on a 60s comic strip that no one remembers? Vanity Fair seems, jokingly,  to think so
  • New Blood: Does Nelsan Ellis, the great young, Julliard-trained actor who plays the incredible and ground-breaking character Lafayette on the terribly retrogressive (yet oddly compelling) True Blood, suffer from the typical “scared-to-play-gay” syndrome? Sure seems that way in this otherwise cute conversation between him and the crazy hot Kevin Alejandro (who I’m sorta, um, gaga for—you see what I did there?) on the set of the HBO show:

  • Sweet Baby James: And last but TRULY not least: At coffee with the calm, crazy-cool Tufts professor Christina Sharpe the other day, we agreed on the greatness that is Mr James Baldwin, chatting about his famous response to Norman Mailer with the brilliant essay “The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy”—read it YESTERDAY if you’ve never done so; you can find it in this book or this one. I walked away from that coffee date not even knowing that there’s a new collection of James’ uncollected writings, The Cross of Redemption, edited and with an intro by author Randall Kenan, being published in August! (I won’t tell you about the cartwheels I was doing about this when the guys showed up to put in my air conditioner the other day; but it was more fun than embarrassing.) If you’re a Baldwin compleatist like me, this is like Manna from wherever Heaven is, and I can’t wait to get my copy. It’ll go on the shelf next to the French import of Harlem Quartet, the final Baldwin “novel” Professor Gates gave me (which has only been published in France—hopefully that’ll see the light of an American day soon…more on that in a later post…)

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