Photo courtesy of Occidental College. 1990.
My research centers on contemporary writing by women of color, with a focus especially on African American and Black British women’s novels. I recently co-edited a collection of essays, which broadens this focus to include Black women writers in Africa, the Caribbean, Britain, and the United States. It is entitled Experimental Subjectivities in Global Black Women’s Writing: Race and Narrative Form, and it’s forthcoming from Bloomsbury Press in 2024.
I approach literary works through two frames that, although they seem different, are interrelated. First, I am interested in the ways that fiction engages with history and with contemporary cultural contexts of race and gender. Secondly, I pay close attention to narrative form, using narrative theory to illuminate the dialogue between reader and text.
If there is a narrative thread that runs through these books and articles, it might be the question of reader response. I have been interested in the dynamic interaction between text, reader and author from the first. As Jim Phelan and others developed rhetorical narrative theory and as I read and wrote my way through Toni Morrison’s ever-changing inventions of ethical dialogues with her reader, so my perspective on reader response evolved. I am now asking questions about how contemporary Black British, Caribbean, and African American writers of speculative fiction inspire new and different forms of reader response through their textual strategies.
My book on Toni Morrison, Love and Narrative Form in the Toni Morrison’s Later Novels (2017), was awarded the Toni Morrison Society prize for the best single-authored book on Toni Morrison (2018).
My first book, Reconstructing Desire, focuses on the interaction between a fictional text and a reader’s unconscious fantasies. It poses the question of whether a woman reader’s engagement with a novel might change her fixed attitudes toward romantic love, family, and female creativity. My second book, Risking Difference, deals with processes of identification, idealization, and envy in the experience of reading. It focuses especially on how race figures in the complex interactions between reader, author, and text.
In collaboration with co-editor Sheldon George and scholars of African, Caribbean, African American, and Black British contemporary fiction, I have produced two edited collections. Reading Contemporary Black British and African American Women Writers (Routledge, 2020) explores the intersections among ethics, race, and gender in the writings of contemporary African American and Black British writers. Experimental Subjectivities in Global Black Women’s Writing: Race and Narrative Form (Bloomsbury, forthcoming, 2024) expands the range to cover black women’s writing from Africa, the Caribbean, the US, and the UK.
I am a professor emerita of English at Occidental College.
Jean Wyatt walking in the mountain forest, Appalachian Mountains, North Carolina
In addition to my work as part of the Occidental College community, I have served various roles in the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society (APCS), such as:
Member of the APCS Board of Directors from 1995-2018. The Board met once or twice a year to plan the conference and handle APCS issues.
Membership chair for APCS from 2010-2016. Duties included mailing renewal notices to members of APCS, collecting checks for membership, and coordinating with APCS treasurer to handle deposits of membership fees.