Gene Jarrett comes to New York University from Boston University, where he was Professor of English and served as Acting Director of African American studies, Chair of the Department of English, and Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Humanities. Jarrett has written two books and edited eight more that altogether examine the longstanding negotiations of African American writers with racial representation—that is, with the formal and thematic process of portraying race in progressive ways, and thus with the question of how much this literary process exists in dialectical relation to political ideology and action. His writings have also tried to account more broadly for how American critics, cultural institutions, and commercial marketplaces have registered the aesthetics and politics of racial representation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For his recent scholarly work he has been awarded fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the American Council of Learned Societies.
Jarrett’s book Representing the Race: A New Political History of African American Literature (NYU Press, 2011) tackles the question: “What is the political value of African American literature?” Jarrett traces the genealogy of this topic to produce an innovative political history of African American pamphlets, autobiographies, cultural criticism, poems, short stories, and novels. The critical methods and concepts of Representing the Race build upon his first book, Deans and Truants: Race and Realism in African American Literature (U Penn Press, 2007), which exposes the punitive definitions of race and realism that have canonized putatively authentic and political representations of African American experiences since the late nineteenth century. Both Representing the Race and Deans and Truants have spawned essays of mine published in such leading journals as PMLA, American Literary History, Early American Literature, NOVEL, and African American Review.
Right now Jarrett is completing his third monograph, which he hopes to be a definitive biography of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the Dayton-born African American writer who, in the brief period of his life from 1872 to 1906, rose to international prominence.
The research Jarrett conducted for his monographs inspired him to edit eight books of African American literature and literary criticism. Released in 2014, The Wiley-Blackwell Anthology of African American Literature is a comprehensive collection of literature authored by New World Africans and African Americans from the eighteenth century until the present. Published in two volumes, it is the first such anthology to be fundamentally conceived for both classroom and online education in the twenty-first century. In 2014 he also became founding Editor-in-Chief of the African American Studies module of Oxford Bibliographies Online, published by Oxford University Press.