The Career Enhancement Fellowship, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, seeks to increase the presence of underrepresented junior and other faculty members in the arts and humanities by creating career development opportunities for selected Fellows with promising research projects.
Assistant Professor of English Mecca Jamilah Sullivan is among the 32 faculty members nationwide to be named a 2020 Fellow.
Sullivan's research explores the links between poetic form and social location in African American and African diasporic women’s literature and culture. Her current book project, The Poetics of Difference: Queer Feminist Forms in the African Diaspora, considers the social and political resonances of formally subversive works by contemporary women writers, performers, and artists of the diaspora.
"Since the height of the post-civil rights and decolonization movements, black women poets and artists have actively engaged in a politically rooted experimentalism that remains underexplored in contemporary scholarship," says Sullivan.
In her research, Sullivan explores the politics of experiment in the works of foundational diasporic writers such as Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange, and Ama-Ata Aidoo, drawing connections to a broader archive of underexplored Afrodiasporic queer and feminist experimentalism that includes American poet Akilah Oliver, Canadian experimentalist Marlene NourbeSe Philip, Haitian-American lesbian poet Lenelle Moïse, Trinidadian-Canadian lesbian writer Dionne Brand, South African lesbian photographer Zanele Muholi, and the queer Cuban hip-hop group Las Krudas Cubensi.
"Bringing together literary, feminist, queer, and black cultural studies methodologies, I forward a new reading strategy for understanding these artists’ critical and theoretical contributions, and consider how their formal choices intervene in our understandings of human sociality and political life."
Sullivan's scholarly work has earned honors from the American Association of University Women, the Social Sciences Research Council, the Mellon Foundation, Duke University, Rutgers University, Williams College, and others, and has been published in American Literary History; GLQ: Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies; American Quarterly; College Literature; Women’s Studies; The Scholar and Feminist; Palimpsest: a Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International; Jacket2; and other publications. She is also the author of a short story collection, Blue Talk and Love (2015). Her fiction has received support and honors from Bread Loaf, Yaddo, and the NEA. In 2018, she earned the Judith Markowitz Award for Emerging Writers from Lambda Literary.
"My research projects are closely related to my teaching in the areas of poetry and poetics, African diaspora feminism, gender and sexuality studies, and creative writing. I’m eager to bring my future research back into the classroom at Bryn Mawr," says Sullivan.
Bryn Mawr's English Department offers a wide range of courses in literatures of the English-speaking world, from medieval romances to contemporary novels and film. Students develop their own paths through the major, experimenting with historical periods, genres, forms and methodologies that might be unfamiliar, while also developing expertise in areas of specific interest to them.