The Blackademic Life critically examines academic fiction produced by black writers. Lavelle Porter evaluates the depiction of academic and campus life in literature as a space for black writers to produce counternarratives that celebrate black intelligence and argue for the importance of higher education, particularly in the humanistic tradition. Beginning with an examination of W. E. B. Du Bois’s creative writing as the source of the first black academic novels, Porter looks at the fictional representations of black intellectual life and the expectations that are placed on faculty and students to be racial representatives and spokespersons, whether or not they ever intended to be. The final chapter examines blackademics on stage and screen, including in the 2014 film Dear White People and the groundbreaking television series A Different World.
“Porter has produced an exciting study of responsibility and representation in a field where, for too long, the ‘educated Negro’ was by definition the ‘overeducated Negro.’ This is a wonderful read, and for those to whom it is new, it's exciting to have it all so richly and clearly spelled out.” —Samuel R. Delany, author of The Mad Man
“The Blackademic Life is an expansive study of African American literary fiction that foregrounds students, professors, and campus life. Porter locates the origins of this genre in the Reconstruction era and traces its development through various stages of African American history, into the present day. He argues that academic fiction has long been an important site at which strategies and ideals of racial representation have been articulated and contested. Accordingly, he urges readers to acknowledge the genre as a central, rather than a marginal, form of black writing.” —Aida Levy-Hussen, author of How to Read African American Literature: Post–Civil Rights Fiction and the Task of Interpretation
“In this brilliant and insightful book, Lavelle Porter highlights the significance of the Black academic novel—a unique genre that captures the interconnection between higher education and Black literary production. By centering the writings of W. E. B. Du Bois, Nella Larsen, and many others, Porter compellingly shows how Black intellectuals used creative works to challenge racism in the academy and beyond.” —Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom
"Reading Porter’s book feels like a necessary reeducation in American history, black history and politics, and, most importantly, black literature and culture. What stands out to me most is Porter’s candid examination of what it means to thrive while simultaneously bearing the burden of representing one’s race and being accused of inauthenticity." —Debarati Biswas, Public Books
"Porter’s study will no doubt be indispensable to those of us who are Blackademics, those in Black studies, as well as those in US history and literature. I highly recommend this book for academic study and also, I dare say, reading for pleasure." —Vershawn Ashanti Young, ALH Online Review