Kenneth Warren 

Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor of English and Literature 

Warren’s scholarship and teaching focuses on American and African American literature from the late nineteenth century through the middle of the twentieth century. He is particularly interested in the way that debates about literary form and genre articulate with discussions of political and social change. His single-authored books, which include What Was African American Literature? (Harvard 2010), So Black and Blue: Ralph Ellison and the Occasion of Criticism (Chicago, 2003), and Black and White Strangers: Race and American Literary Realism (Chicago, 1993), explore how American literature by black and white writers helped consolidate, and subsequently responded to, Jim Crow America. Indeed, in What Was African American Literature? Warren argues that the idea of African-American literature gained conceptual coherence only in response to the Jim Crow regime. The argument of that book derives from his study of Ralph Ellison, So Black and Blue, which raises the uncomfortable possibility that our desire to value the work of twentieth-century American authors—even those authors who, like Ellison, set out to challenge the nation’s racial status quo—might, paradoxically, tend to underwrite our commitment to a social order that naturalizes forms of inequality.

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