Brian Norman

Dean, Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities
  • Art and Music
  • Children’s Literature
  • Communications
  • Literature and Writing
  • History
  • Modern Languages & Literatures
  • Philosophy
Dean Brian Norman


(617) 521-2472

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  • Ph.D., Rutgers University, English
  • B.A., Pacific Lutheran University, Environmental Studies, French, Women's Studies

About Me

I am a Professor of English and the Dean of the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities at Simmons University. I have taught American and African American literature at Rutgers University, Fordham University, Idaho State University, and Loyola University in Baltimore, where I was the founding director of the program in African and African American Studies and also served as Associate Vice President for Faculty Affairs and Diversity. I am the author of Dead Women Talking: Figures of Injustice in American Literature (Johns Hopkins 2013), Neo-Segregation Narratives: Jim Crow in Post-Civil Rights American Literature (Georgia 2010), and The American Protest Essay and National Belonging (SUNY 2007). With Piper Kendrix Williams, I also co-edited Representing Segregation: Toward an Aesthetics of Living Jim Crow (SUNY 2010). I have held residential fellowships at the Center for the Humanities at the University of Maryland-Baltimore Count, the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University, and the Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers University.

I am a first-generation college graduate from a small town in Oregon whose world opened thanks to an undergraduate education steeped in the liberal arts. In addition to my academic life, I enjoy reading, biking, community gardening, traveling, and dinner with friends. I live with my husband in Jamaica Plain, a wonderfully diverse community in Boston.

What I Teach

I have taught a range of courses at the graduate and undergraduate level at several universities and I hope to teach at Simmons when time allows. My courses have included:

  • African American Literature
  • American Feminist Public Intellectuals
  • American Pluralism
  • Captivity Narratives
  • Civil Rights / Civil Writes
  • Collaboration
  • Contemporary Literature
  • Dead Women Talking
  • Introduction to Literature
  • James Baldwin seminar
  • Modern / Postmodern


My scholarship concerns the relationship between literature and social change. I ask questions about identity, justice, and national belonging and I am especially interested in writers associated with American social movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


Dead Women Talking: Figures of Injustice in American Literature (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013)

Neo-Segregation Narratives: Jim Crow in Post-Civil Rights American Literature (University of Georgia Press, 2010)

Representing Segregation: Toward an Aesthetics of Living Jim Crow, and Other Forms of Racial Division, edited with Piper Kendrix Williams (SUNY Press, 2010)

The American Protest Essay and National Belonging: Addressing Division (SUNY Press, 2007)


“The Posthumous Autobiography and Civil Rights Memory,” African American Review 53, no.1 (2020): in press.

“Faculty Leadership and Institutional Resilience: Indicators, Promising Practices, and Key Questions,” with Collaborative for Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE), Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 58, no. 4 (2019): 48-54.

"Baldwin and the Protest Essay Tradition," James Baldwin in Context, ed. Quentin Miller (Cambridge UP), in press.

"Writing Race and Remembrance in the Civil Rights Movement Years," A History of African American Autobiography, ed. Joycelyn Moody (Cambridge UP), in press.

"Write Like Me: Black Fictions of White Life" (review essay), American Literary History 28, no. 1 (2016): 199-209.

"Baldwin's Collaborations," The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin, ed. Michele Elam (Cambridge UP, 2015), 135-49.

"The Literary Dilemmas of Narrating Jim Crow," The Cambridge Companion to American Civil Rights Literature, ed. Julie Buckner Armstrong (Cambridge UP, 2015), 35-48.

"The Survivor's Dilemma in Edwidge Danticat's The Farming of Bones," Contemporary Women's Writing 9, no. 3 (2015): 401-15.

"When Dead Men Talk: Emmett Till, Southern Pasts, and Present Demands," Undead Souths: Beyond the Gothic, ed. Daniel Cross Turner, Taylor Hagood, and Eric Gary Anderson (Louisiana State UP, 2015), 136-48.

"What Are these Bodies Doing in the River? Freedom Summer and the Cultural Imagination," Southern Quarterly, introduction to special issue on Freedom Summer, 52, no. 1 (2014): 174-78.

"Agee's Astonishment," Post Road 26 (2013): 146-57.

"Death and Futurity in Randall Kenan's Reinvention of the Passing Narrative," LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory 23, no. 1 (2012): 52-69.

"Bringing Malcolm X to Hollywood," The Cambridge Companion to Malcolm X, ed. Robert E. Terrill (Cambridge UP, 2010), 39-50.

"Clarifying Blackness in Anglo-Native Fictions: Tom Spanbauer's Cross-Ethnic Borrowings," Canadian Review of American Studies 40, no. 2 (2010): 235-58.

"The Historical Uncanny: Segregation Signs in Getting Mother's Body, a Post-Civil Rights American Novel," African American Review 43, nos. 2-3 (2009): 443-56.

"Baldwin's Unifying Polemic: Racial Segregation, Moral Integration, and the Polarizing Figure of Emmett Till," in Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination, eds. Harriet Pollack and Christopher Metress (Louisiana State UP, 2008), 75-97.

"'We' in Redux: The Combahee River Collective's 'A Black Feminist Statement,'" differences 18, no.2 (2007): 103-32.

"James Baldwin's Confrontation with U.S. Imperialism in If Beale Street Could Talk," MELUS 32, no. 1 (2007): 119-38.

"The Addressed and the Redressed: Helen Hunt Jackson's Protest Essay and the U.S. Protest Novel Tradition," Canadian Review of American Studies 37, no. 1 (2007): 111-34.

"The Consciousness-Raising Document, Feminist Anthologies, and Black Women in Sisterhood Is Powerful(1970)," Frontiers 37, no. 3 (2006): 38-64.

"Crossing Identitarian Lines: Women's Liberation and James Baldwin's Early Essays," Women's Studies 35, no. 3 (2006): 241-64.


"James Baldwin and the Question of Privacy," editor and introduction, James Baldwin Review (2015): 207-23.

"Literature of the Movement," section editor and introduction, special issue on the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer, Southern Quarterly 52, no. 1 (2014): 173-225.

"Representing Segregation," with Piper Kendrix Williams, special issue of African American Review 42, no. 1 (2008).

Higher Education Presentations and Workshops

"Cultivating Faculty Leadership: A COACHE Best Practices Study," American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), Atlanta, GA, Jan 25, 2019.

Examining Persistently White Institutions: Helping Academic Leaders Chart a Path forward for Diversity and Hospitality," American Conference of Academic Deans (ACAD), Atlanta, GA, Jan 23, 2019

"Inclusion as Mission: Mission-Driven Strategies for Faculty Recruitment and Development," panel presentation, Justice in Jesuit Higher Education, Seattle U., Aug 11, 2017

"Inclusion as Mission: A Faculty Development Approach to Radical Hospitality," panel presentation, Collegium: Pause at 25 (Colloquy on Faith and Intellectual Life), St. Catherine's U., St. Paul, MN, June 18, 2017

"Rethinking a Course through Backward Design and Inclusive Teaching," faculty workshop, Morgan State U., Baltimore, MD, June 12, 2017

"Inclusive Teaching and Syllabus Design," faculty workshop, Washington College, Chestertown, MD, Dec 9, 2016