Linda-Susan Beard

Professor Emeritus of Literatures in English
Linda-Susan Beard headshot


Phone 610-526-5318
Location English House



Ph.D., Cornell University.

Areas of Focus

Contemplative intelligence, post-colonial literatures, South African and African-American literature


Linda-Susan Beard negotiates between and among the worlds of African American, South African, and post-colonial literatures. She teaches courses on post-apartheid literature, literary and historical reimaginings of transatlantic slavery such as "Toni Morrison and the Art of Narrative Conjure," as well as introductory courses in English and African literatures which examine the dynamics of canon formation. She is editing the first comprehensive volume of the letters of Bessie Head, about whom she has written essays and given conference papers for 25 years. She is also involved in the new area of contemplative intelligence, having been in the first group of Contemplative Fellows chosen by the ACLS and funded by the Cummings and Fetzer Foundations. King's College recently awarded her an honorary doctorate for her work in integrating contemplative and intellectual ways of knowing. She served for five years as Faculty Coordinator of the Mellon Scholars Program and chair of the Africana Studies Program.

A student of the African Diaspora, Linda Susan Beard teaches a range of courses from “Toni Morrison and the Art of Narrative Conjure” to “The Black Bard” and “Contemporary African Literature.” She has given more than 100 conference papers, keynote addresses, and workshops in the United States, Botswana, South Africa, Fiji, and the United Kingdom.  Her essays appear in such publications as Modern Fiction Studies,The Colby Library Quarterly, and the selected papers from international meetings of the Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies. She has served as outside examiner for the Honors Thesis Program at Bates College and the doctoral program in English for The University of Cape Town.

Professor Beard convened the first international gathering of Black women writers in 1985: The Black Woman and the Diaspora. That meeting featured writers such as Audre Lorde (U.S.), Aminata Sow Fall (Senegal), and Ellen Kuzwayo (South Africa) and scholars from four continents.  Linda Susan Beard is also a member of the first class of Contemplative Practice Fellows of the Contemplative Mind in Society Project. Each summer she serves as faculty for the Contemplative Curriculum Development Seminar at Smith College.  She is often invited to give presentations on contemplative intelligence.  In 2011 she spoke to the faculty at the newly revitalized Antioch College in its search for ways to incorporate contemplative intelligence into its new curriculum.  An honorary doctorate from King’s College honored Beard’s work in bridging the gap between cognitive and contemplative ways of knowing.

Professor Beard wears yet another hat as co-foundress of Emmaus Monastery, a contemplative, monastic community headquartered on an 80-acre farm in rural Michigan.  The community’s charism is to bring a contemplative ministry of presence to the least likely places and to assist others in the healing of memories.

Beard’s courses largely focus on human beings in the midst of often unnameable crisis. The course she designed for the Contemplative Practice Fellowship brought into non-comparative conversation the literature of survivors of chattel slavery, apartheid, and the European Holocaust. Her goal is to companion students who, as witnesses, stand alongside the burning bush of intense suffering without their becoming immolated in the conflagration. Beard believes that writing is a form of documentation, resistance, survival, rehabilitation and legacy-building.

Courses Taught:
245 - I Remember Harlem 
246 - Scribbling Sisters: Pan-African Women Writers
250 - Methods of Literary Study 
262 - African-American Literature
263 - Toni Morrison: The Art of Literary Conjure
         (crosslisted w/ Feminist & Gender Studies)
264 - The Black Bard: Poetry in Diaspora        
362 - The African-American Writer: Speaking in Tongues
379 - The African Griotte: Bessie Head
388 - Contemporary African Fiction