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Dr. Houston A. Baker, Jr., Spring 2011

Dr. Houston A. Baker
Dr. Houston A. Baker

Vanderbilt University

Dates of Dr. Houston A. Baker's visit: February 7-11, 2011

Houston A. Baker, Jr. is a native of Louisville, Kentucky. He graduated from Louisville Male High School in 1961. He received his BA (Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa) from Howard University in 1965, and spent the summer of 1965 working as an Intern Reporter for the Washington Post. He received his MA from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1966, and his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1968. His first academic post was an Assistant Professorship Yale University where he became a Fellow of Branford College in 1968. He subsequently taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, and Duke University. He is currently Distinguished University Professor and Professor of English at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He has served as President of the Modern Language Association of America (1992) and as Editor of American Literature (1999-2006), the oldest and most prestigious journal in American Literary Studies.

Professor Baker began his career as a scholar of British Victorian Literature, but made a career shift to the study of African American Literature and Culture at Yale. He has published or edited more than twenty books, and is the author of more than one hundred articles, essays, and reviews. His recent books include Turning South Again: Re-Thinking Modernism, Re-Reading Booker T (Duke University Press, 2001) and I Don't Hate the South: Reflections on Faulkner, Family, and the South (Oxford University Press, 2007). His critique of black public intellectuals titled Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era (Columbia University Press, 2008) received an American Book Award for 2009. Professor Baker is a published poet whose most recent volume is Passing Over (Lotus Press, 2000).

Professor Baker has served in a number of administrative and institutional posts and was founder of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Study of Black Literature and Culture (currently named Center for Africana Studies) in 1989. He was the University of Pennsylvania's Director of Afro-American Studies (1974-1977), and was the first holder of Penn's Albert M. Greenfield Professorship in Human Relations. His honors include Guggenheim, John Hay Whitney, Rockefeller, and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships. He has served as Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and the National Humanities Center. His visiting lectures and professorships have carried him to Moscow, Coimbra, Paris, Ibadan, Edinburgh, London, Copenhagen, Tai Pei, Toronto, Rio De Janeiro, Brasilia, Cornell, Haverford, Colgate, University of Illinois at Chicago, Tuscaloosa, Howard, Virginia State, Alabama State, Morehouse, Washington and Lee, and other scholarly and academic venues. He has served as Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Lecturer, and holds lifetime achievement awards from the Modern Language Association, the Furious Flower Conference on Afro-American Poetry, the African Writers Hall of Fame, and the Philadelphia's Celebration of Black Writing. He is Senior Fellow of the School of Criticism and Theory. He is the recipient of more than a dozen honorary degrees from American colleges and universities. His work in progress focuses on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Black Atlantic Diaspora. Professor Baker lives in Nashville with his wife Dr. Charlotte Pierce-Baker.