Hannah Wakefield teaches courses in early American literature and African American literature. Her teaching and research interests lie at the intersection of religious and multi-ethnic American literature of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her article on the newspaper poetry of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper is forthcoming in Legacy: A Journal of American Women writers, and her current research focuses on the influence of Protestant churches on Olaudah Equiano’s political thought.
M.A. & Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis
B.A., Union University
Research and Teaching
My teaching and research interests include African American literature, Native American literature, and religion. My most recent work shows how the encounters of Protestant churches and people of color in the nineteenth-century US shaped literary genre and form.
I show students how literary texts both derive from and speak back to particular historical and political contexts, cultural conventions, and rhetorical traditions. I use a combination of lectures, small group discussions, and individual assignments to point to unexpected connections between text, context, and our own current moment.
What are your expectations of students?
I expect students to be prepared enough for class to join me in uncovering what is powerful, captivating, and surprising about a given text. In other words, students should read, take notes, and think before class meetings. I also expect students to take their writing seriously and work to improve it.
Why did you become an English professor?
When choosing my career path during my junior year of college, I couldn’t envision myself doing anything besides teaching. An academic career perfectly addressed my love of literature and my passion for education, my need to work independently and my desire to collaborate.
Why teach X?
I was initially drawn to African American literature because of the boldness of writers who dared to muster the forces of language to speak in their own behalf, to insist on their own humanity, to create and sustain black communities, and to call oppressors to account. I teach these texts as foundational works of American literature and treasure troves of prophetic/protest rhetoric; social, political, and religious thought; and aesthetic beauty.
Outside of being a professor, what do you do for fun and/or relaxation?
I cook, listen to music, read contemporary novels, and invest in my church community. These days I’m also trying my hand at keeping plants alive (with moderate success so far!).
What's something about you that might surprise your students?
In the seventh grade, I competed in the National Spelling Bee. Mostly this means that I spent a week gallivanting around Washington D.C. sporting a (very hip) National Spelling Bee fanny pack.