The Department of English at Michigan State University is home to a myriad of talented faculty members actively engaged in research and creative activity with several of these scholars and artists recently earning awards and professional recognition for the books they have written. These celebrated publications examine topics like linguistic justice in English education, queer literature and theory, color in cinema, Afro-Latinx diasporic literature, the politics of performance, and modernist design history, and have made significant contributions to the vanguard of contemporary poetry.
“I’m thrilled and proud to see my colleagues’ scholarship receiving this kind of professional recognition. It’s especially exciting to note the diverse scholarly fields represented by these book honorifics, including literary studies, Afro-Caribbean and diaspora studies, film and media studies, English Education, gender and sexuality studies, drama and performance studies, and more,” said Justus Nieland, Chairperson of the Department of English. “Our department has long been interdisciplinary, and these accolades affirm the kinds of groundbreaking, innovative scholarship and creative production that makes for a world-class Department of English. We are appreciative of the College and University’s support of our mission of inclusive scholarly excellence.”
The range of scholarship and writing covered by these books and the subsequent peer recognition and awards speak volumes about the breadth and quality of research within the College of Arts & Letters and the Department of English.
“Our department has long been interdisciplinary, and these accolades affirm the kinds of groundbreaking, innovative scholarship and creative production that makes for a world-class Department of English.”Justus Nieland, Chairperson of the Department of English
“Our faculty in English are, just as in other areas of the university, working on some of the most challenging issues that face our society today,” said Bill Hart-Davidson, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Education for the College of Arts & Letters. “As institutions like ours work to envision the more inclusive, culturally rich, ethical, and caring place we can become, this is vital scholarship. Each of these scholars looks back in order to look forward. They help us to understand the past and to set our eyes toward a better future with clear and compelling calls for more equitable, just, and sustainable ways of being together.”
The following is a list of faculty members in the Department of English who recently have been recognized for their outstanding work and the books they have written, including citations from various scholarly or professional organizations.
April Baker-Bell, Associate Professor of Language, Literacy, and English Education, published Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy, which dismantles Anti-Black Linguistic Racism and white linguistic supremacy through a combination of theory, research, and practice.
The book received numerous awards, including the 2021 Outstanding Book in Community Writing Award from the Coalition for Community Writing and the 2020 National Council of Teachers of English George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language.
“Dr. April Baker-Bell’s book, Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy, is a powerful call to both critically analyze and criticize language instruction and its corresponding ideologies in the English Language Arts classroom,” the NCTE Public Language Award Committee stated. “Introducing Anti-Black Linguistic Racism, which ‘describes the linguistic violence, persecution, dehumanization, and marginalization that Black language speakers experience in schools and everyday life,’ Dr. Baker-Bell calls for the celebration of Black students and Black language in all spaces, focusing on the rich literacy practices and experiences of Black youth. Her book, timely and important, highlights the need to re-envision language education so that we can end racism and linguistic violence in classrooms.”
Yomaira C. Figueroa-Vásquez
Yomaira C. Figueroa-Vásquez, Associate Professor of Global Afro-Diaspora Studies, received the MLA Prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies for her book Decolonizing Diasporas: Radical Mappings of Afro-Atlantic Literature.
The book maps literature from Spanish-speaking sub-Saharan African and Afro-Latinx Caribbean diasporas and argues that the works of diasporic writers and artists from Equatorial Guinea, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba offer new worldviews that unsettle and dismantle the logics of colonial modernity.
“Yomaira C. Figueroa-Vásquez’s Decolonizing Diasporas: Radical Mappings of Afro-Atlantic Literature propels Afro-Latinidad studies in a new direction by placing Equatorial Guinean and Afro–Puerto Rican, Afro-Dominican, and Afro-Cuban cultural production in extended conversation,” the award selection committee stated. “Figueroa-Vásquez invites readers to examine the preoccupations, aesthetics, and intersections of what she calls peripheralized Afro-Atlantic subjects — those who are situated at the extremes of marginality. Decolonizing Diasporas illuminates history, language, and geography in much-needed remapping of the Afro-Atlantic’s diasporic and exile poetics. The narratives, music, and photography Figueroa-Vásquez engages help to expose the historic and continuing structures of anti-Blackness, productively troubling static expressions of ethnic belonging.”
Juliet Guzzetta, Associate Professor in the Department of English where she is the primary faculty member in Contemporary Theatre Studies with specialties in Performance Studies and Theatre History, Women and Gender Studies, Italian Studies, and Creative Writing, received an Honorable Mention for the Modern Language Association’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies for her book, The Theater of Narration: From the Peripheries of History to the Main Stages of Italy.
The book examines the theater of narration, an Italian performance genre and aesthetic that revisits historical events of national importance from local perspectives, drawing on the rich relationship between personal experiences and historical accounts. Incorporating original research from the private archives of leading narrators — artists who write and perform their work —Guzzetta argues that the practice teaches audiences how ordinary people aren’t simply witnesses to history but participants in its creation.
“Going beyond the genealogical attribution of the theater of narration to Dario Fo, Juliet Guzzetta’s The Theater of Narration: From the Peripheries of History to the Main Stages of Italy has the notable distinction of being the first North American study to establish the theater of narration as a canon of authors who have clear geographic and generational positionalities,” the award selection committee stated. “Guzzetta’s archival work, ethnographic method, and historiographical approach to theater are particularly innovative.”
Ellen McCallum, Professor of Literary Studies; Film and Media Studies; Feminist, Queer, and Sexuality Studies; and Global and Diasporic Studies, was chosen as a 2019 Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine for a book she co-edited with Tyler Bradshaw, Associate Professor of English at State University of New York College, After Queer Studies: Literature, Theory, and Sexuality in the 21st Century.
The book maps the literary influences that facilitate queer theory’s academic emergence, charts the trajectories that continue evolution as a critical practice, explores the interdisciplinary origins of queer studies, and argues for the prominent role that literary studies has played in establishing the concepts, methods, and questions of contemporary queer theory.
It shows how queer studies has had an impact on many trending concerns in literary studies, such as the affective turn, the question of the subject, and the significance of social categories like race, class, and sexual differences. Bridging between queer studies’ legacies and its horizons, this collection initiates new discussion on the irreducible changes that queer studies has introduced in the concepts, methods, and modes of literary interpretation and cultural practices.
The book Happiness by Design: Modernism and Media in the Eames Era written by Justus Nieland, Professor of Film Studies and Chairperson of the Department of English, was shortlisted for the 2021 Modernist Studies Association Book Prize.
The book reimagines mid-century modernism via the media practices of its designers. It offers a fresh cultural history of midcentury modernism through the film and multimedia experiments of Charles and Ray Eames and their peers. Nieland traces how Cold War designers engaged in creative activities that spanned disciplines and blended art and technoscience while reckoning with the environmental reach of media at the dawn of the information age.
“Justus Nieland traces the continuation of modernist experimentation at mid-century in a body of understudied films and multimedia products produced by the Eameses and their peers. Examined in meticulous detail, this fascinating archive is the grounds for Nieland’s new and often surprising cultural history of modernism — a modernism in which art and design are caught up with corporations and institutions, including the university, as they develop techniques of happiness or ‘the good life’ through media,” the award selection committee stated. “Happiness by Design is a major interdisciplinary work with implications not only for modernist studies but also for design history, film and media studies, and institutional history.”
Divya Victor, Associate Professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing Program received the 2022 PEN Open Book Award presented by PEN America and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize presented by Claremont Graduate University for her book CURB, which offers a sobering poetic look at domestic terrorism against South Asians across America and how immigrants navigate the liminal sites of everyday living.
Through the use of poetry, Victor emphasizes the risk to nonwhite individuals presumed to be trespassing in white spaces and challenges readers to reconsider the fragile boundaries they share with one another.
“Curb is a remarkable book of poetry. It is a stunning historical document that is also about recovery — of physical bodies, of selves, of truth. At the same time, it amplifies an endemic racism that the media erroneously treats as isolated incidents,” the PEN Open Book Award selection committee stated. “Divya Victor’s vigorously researched hybrid work expertly shows how the discrimination embedded in American social practices acts against the South Asian community to devastating effect. The book’s unconventional structure uses location, language, and personal narrative to mimic or parallel the everyday difficulties of navigating public spaces for people whose suffering runs the risk of being forgotten or made invisible. Lyric poems blend with journalistic narrative to transform documentation into artful revelation. Curb’s emotionally driven prose balances the intellectual and political with the personal in a brilliantly inventive way.”
Joshua Yumibe, Professor of Film and Media Studies, received the Michael Nelson Book Prize presented by the International Association for Media and History for his book Chromatic Modernity: Color Cinema and Media of the 1920s. This biennial prize is awarded to the book making the best contribution on the subject of media and history. Yumibe co-wrote the book with Sarah Street, Professor of Film at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.
Chromatic Modernity considers the influence of color in the arts to produce a broad, comparative investigation that establishes color cinema within the chromatic culture of the 1920s. At its essence, the book investigates how color reshaped the modern world.
“In Chromatic Modernity, Sarah Street and Joshua Yumibe offer an insightful analysis of the dynamic interrelationship of film, history, and the culture of the 1920s,” the award selection committee said. “The volume artfully demonstrates the interplay of film technology and experimentation with innovations in all things visual, from fashion to architecture. The authors have crafted a discussion of intermediality and aesthetic engagement that will influence the literature of film history for years to come.”