Dr Rachel Farebrother

Dr Rachel Farebrother
Senior Lecturer
English Literature & Creative Writing
Telephone: (01792) 604830

My primary research interests lie in African American literature and culture, especially the Harlem Renaissance. I have also written several articles on postcolonial literature, especially writers of the South Asian diaspora such as Agha Shahid Ali and Anita Desai. My monograph, The Collage Aesthetic in the Harlem Renaissance (2009), which was awarded Honourable Mention in the British Association of American Studies book prize, explores the historical, aesthetic and political burdens of recurring collage patterns in the pages of New Negro texts. It interprets synthesis and fragmentation in the writings of Zora Neale Hurston, Alain Locke and Jean Toomer in relation to visual collage and Boasian anthropology, which understood culture as an assembly of diverse fragments rather than a coherent whole.

 The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines

My current research focuses on representations of cultural encounter in specific cultural or religious institutions (including museums, churches and various educational contexts). I examine the representation of figures that have yet to receive sustained critical attention in African American modernist studies (including the museum visitor, the artist’s model, the preacher, the teacher and the child), reading these figures in the context of early twentieth-century political and cultural debates while also taking a longer historical view. In 2017, I will take up a Donald C. Gallup fellowship at the Beinecke Library to complete the research for ‘Education and Mis-education in the Harlem Renaissance,’ a project that assesses education as a neglected context (and an enduring thematic preoccupation) for the formulation of New Negro concepts of gender, class, modernity, activism and racial identity.

Publications

  1. 'A Shrine of Words': the politics and poetics of space in Agha Shahid Ali's The Country Without a Post Office. In Claire Chambers and Caroline Herbert (Ed.), Imagining Muslims in South Asia and the Diaspora: secularism, religion, representationsn. (pp. 86-96). London and New York: Routledge.
  2. "Out of Place": Reading Space in Percival Everett's Erasure. MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 40(2), 117-136.
  3. The Collage Aesthetic in the Harlem Renaissance. Farnham: Ashgate.
  4. “Thinking in hieroglyphics”’: Representations of Egypt in the Harlem Renaissance. In Fionnghuala Sweeney and Kate Marsh (Ed.), Afromodernisms: Paris, Harlem, Haiti and the Avant-garde. (pp. 204-231). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  5. "The Lesson Which India is Today Teaching the World": Nationalism and Internationalism in The Crisis, 1910-1934. Journal of American Studies 46(3), 603-623.

See more...

Teaching

  • AM-113 Introduction to American Literature and Culture

    This module offers an interdisciplinary survey of American literature and culture from the nineteenth century to the present day, examining the construction of a specifically American identity in relation to the sweeping social, technological, and economic changes which characterise the American experience. The first half of the module explores the historical development of America¿s search for self; writers such as Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe are studied in the context of America¿s need to break from Europe, the motif of the wilderness, the expansion of psychological and spiritual boundaries, and issues of race, gender and politics. The second half of the module then explores the fate of the American self in the twentieth century, a self confronted by the anonymity of the city, the dehumanizing forces of world war and the promises (and perils) of consumerism and mass culture. This module explores American culture and literature in a lively and interdisciplinary manner, reading the search for an American self as an attempt to come to terms with the bewildering transformation of the world, and the position of the individual within it.

  • AM-204 Race and Ethnicity: American Perspectives

    This module provides an introduction to the range and diversity of contemporary African American, Native American, Asian American and Chicano/a literature. Focusing on works by both well-known and emerging witers, it encourages students to situate the module texts within their cultural, historical, social and political contexts. At the same time, emphasis is placed on recurring themes and motifs, including memory and trauma; silence, language and speech; the complex intersections between gender, sexuality and ethnicity; and rewriting history. Topics for discussion include: Toni Morrison's incorporation of the vitality of black oral culture and music into the literary domain in Jazz; masculinity, disguise and fantasy in David Hwang's gender-bending play M. Butterfly; the politics and poetics of space in Hisaye Yamamoto's understated engagement with the traumatic history of Japanese American internment in her short fiction; and LeAnne Howe's mocking challenge to ethnic stereotyping in Evidence of Red.

  • AM-224 Race and Ethnicity II: American Perspectives

    The module provides an introduction to the range and diversity of contemporary African American, Native American, Asian American and Chicano/a literature. Focusing on works both well-known and emerging writers, it encourages students to situate the module texts within their cultural, historical, social and political contexts. At the same time, emphasis is placed on recurring themes and motifs, including memory and trauma; silence, language and speech; the complex intersections between gender, sexuality and ethnicity; and rewriting history. Topics for discussion included: Toni Morrison's incorporation of the vitality of black oral culture and music into the literary domain in JAzz; masculinity, disguise and fantasy in David Hwang's gender-bending play M. Butterfly; the politics and poetics of space in Hisaye Yamamoto's understanding engagement with the traumatic history of Japanese American internment in her short fiction; and LeAnne Howe's mocking challenge to ethnic stereotyping in Evidence of Red.

  • AM-250 Ghettos, Streets, Suburbs: Cultural Representations of the American City, 1890 - present

    This module explores the multiple ways in which American literature and culture has engaged with the promises and perils of the city in the period from 1890 to the present. Taking a thematic approach, it focuses on the struggle for ethnic, economic, political and imaginative space within the urban environment. Particular emphasis is placed on the ways in which urban space has been inflected by concepts of ethnic, sexual and gender identity. Focusing on such conceptions of identity, we will consider a variety of responses ¿ in fiction, the essay, music and visual art ¿ to specific urban experiences, including immigration, ghettoisation and suburbanisation. Topics for study include: picturing the slums in Stephen Crane¿s 'Maggie, A Girl of the Streets'; Percival Everett¿s satire of ghetto glamour in 'Erasure'; and the hair salon and transnationalism in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie¿s 'Americanah'.

  • AM-333 African American Literature 1910-1940: The Harlem Renaissance

    This course will examine the Harlem Renaissance or New Negro movement, which saw an unprecedented flowering of African American cultural production in the first half of the twentieth century. Paying close attention to the range of African American expression in music, visual art, poetry, fiction and the essay, we will focus on a number of prominent themes in early twentieth century African-American literature, including:gender and sexuality; migration and urbanisation; and memory and history. Students will be encouraged to think about the relationships between literary texts and their historical contexts, and to make connections across genres, especially between literature and music. Particular emphasis will be placed on stylistic and formal innovations to underline the diverse cultural and political positions that African American writers adopted during this period.

  • AM-336 American Studies Dissertation

    The American Studies dissertation is a free-standing, 40-credit module for American Studies students only, which runs across both semesters of Level Three. Candidates conduct research upon a subject of their choice, devised in consultation with a member of staff teaching on the American Studies degree. The topic must fall within staff research and teaching interests.

  • AM-337 "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall": America in the 1960s

    This interdisciplinary, team-taught module offers students the opportunity to study the 1960s, widely regarded as one of the most complex, contradictory, and controversial decades in twentieth century American life, as reflected in the prevailing historical, political, literary and cultural climate. The decade began with high hopes for a more democratic United States under John F. Kennedy, with liberal triumphs and civil rights gains, yet ended in discord and disillusionment, as many Americans, shaken by urban unrest and assassinations, and divided by the escalation of the war in Vietnam, believed the fate of the nation¿s institutions and ideology hung in the balance. Starting by analysing the consensus that existed in the 1950s, the module will contour America¿s break with cultural conformity during the 1960s, examining such topics as the major domestic achievements of Kennedy¿s New Frontier and Lyndon B. Johnson¿s Great Society; Cold War politics and the Cuban Missile Crisis; the Civil Rights movement from sit-ins to voting rights activism to Black Power; Vietnam and the anti-war and youth countercultural movements; liberalism and the revival of conservative partisanship; the roles of intellectuals and artists, and literary and cultural responses to the changes and challenges of the decade. Drawing on the central developments of the decade, and the competing uses to which 60s narratives have been put, this module will offer students the opportunity to study many hotly debated issues, critically engaging their nature and their significance, and making ample use of a fantastic variety of original sources and visual material, including works of history, literature, art, photography, media, popular music, and cinema.

Supervision

  • Untitled (current)

    Student name:
    PhD
    Other supervisor: Prof Daniel Williams
  • Nature Writing: An analysis of the issues presented by Nature in contemporary American fiction. (current)

    Student name:
    MA
    Other supervisor: Dr Alan Bilton
  • Images of America in the Cinema of Delmer Daves. (current)

    Student name:
    PhD
    Other supervisor: Dr Stephen Mcveigh
  • The Contemporary Short Story in Post-Postmodern American Fiction (current)

    Student name:
    MPhil
    Other supervisor: Dr Alan Bilton
  • Ideas of Landscape in the Fiction of Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson and Louise Erdrich (current)

    Student name:
    PhD
    Other supervisor: Dr Richard Robinson
  • 'Dramatic Catharsis: Barack Obama''''s Rhetoric of Redemption' (awarded 2016)

    Student name:
    PhD
    Other supervisor: Prof Nuria Lorenzo-Dus
  • 'A Comparative Study of selected Arab and South Asian Colonial and Postcolonial Literature.' (awarded 2015)

    Student name:
    PhD
    Other supervisor: Prof Daniel Williams
  • 'Post-Postmodern ''''New Sincerity'''' in Contemporary American Fiction: Wallace, Franzen, Eggers.' (awarded 2014)

    Student name:
    PhD
    Other supervisor: Dr Alan Bilton
  • 'North American Indigenous Cinema and its Audiences' (awarded 2013)

    Student name:
    PhD
    Other supervisor: Dr Stephen Mcveigh

Administrative Responsibilities

  • Admissions Tutor - English Literature & Creative Writing

    2012 - 2015

  • Course Convenor, American Studies Dissertation

    2009 - 2015

  • Academic Mentor to COAH Visiting Professor - Department of Political and Cultural Studies

    2013 - 2014

  • Extenuating Circumstances Coordinator - English Language and Literature

    2009 - 2012

  • School Unfair Practice Officer

    2007 - 2011

  • Examinations Officer - American Studies

    2007 - 2009

Key Grants and Projects

  • Donald C. Gallup Fellowship, Yale Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library 2017

  • Library Fellowship, Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL), Emory University 2015

  • British Association of American Studies, Eccles Fellowship at the British Library 2011 - 2012

  • John F. Kennedy Institute, Berlin, Library Grant 2010