Autumn Womack

Assistant Professor
Department of African American Studies and Department of English
Ph.D, Literature
Columbia University
office phone:
(609) 258-1864
Autumn Womack

Professor Autumn Womack specializes in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century African American literature, with a particular research and teaching focus on the intersection of visual technology, race, and literary culture. She earned her PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, and from 2015-2016 she was a postdoctoral fellow in Rutgers University's Department of English. Most recently Professor Womack as a 2016-2017 faculty fellow at Penn State University's Center for the History of Information (CHI).

Professor Womack's book manuscript ,“Reform Visions: Race, Visuality, and Literature in the Progressive Era," examines the important formal and technical features of emergent visual technologies such as photography, motion pictures, and social surveys to black literary culture from the 1880s through the 1920s. She has published on this and other topics in Black Camera: An International Film Journal, Women and Performance, American Literary History, and SmallAxe Salon. Her contribution to a published roundtable on "Racism's Afterlives"is forthcoming in J19: A Journal of 19th Century Americanists and her exploration of antebellum data visualization in The Anglo-African Magazine will appear in Cambridge University's volume Transitions in African American American Literature, 1850-1865.

Like her research, Professor Womack's teaching is interdisciplinary in its scope. In addition to regularly teaching courses in the area of Nineteenth-Century African-American literary culture, she has taught and developed courses on race and visual culture, literature and surveillance, as well a single author course on Toni Morrison.


AAS 353/ENG 352
African American Literature: Origins to 1910

This introductory course focuses on black literature and literary culture from the mid-18th century to the early 20th; it will cover the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and Paul L. Dunbar; the political oratory of Sojourner Truth and David Walker; slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs; non- fiction prose by W. E. B. Du Bois and Anna Julia Cooper; and Frances Harper’s and James Weldon Johnson’s novels. In readings, assignments, and discussions, we will explore the unique cultural contexts, aesthetic debates, and socio-political forces that surround the production of an early African American literary tradition

AAS 363, ENG 439, AMS 362
Blackness and Media

Working across a range of sites (film, photography, literature, newsprint, music) this course thinks critically about media, blackness, and social life. In the service of expanding our conceptions of media, we will draw together unlikely titles and works from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. How, we will ask, has media has been the site where blackness gets communicated, created, negotiated, and re-imagined? How does blackness operate as both a media and medium? And, how do black writers, thinkers, and artists negotiate the formal limits of media, and what might this reveal about black aesthetics?

ENG 391A, AAS 391
Experimenting in Dark Times 19th Century African American Literature and Culture

This interdisciplinary course explores the intersecting worlds of late 19th century African American literature, technology, aesthetics, and politics. Although this period is commonly theorized as the “Nadir,” or “dark point,” of Black life, it was in fact a moment of artistic and social experimentation, as black artists and intellectuals traversed a range of media to imagine new futures. We will investigate this overlooked cultural moment and develop an understanding of black experimental writing’s roots. In design studio, students will design historically experimental urban projects around the text’s investigated in the weekly seminar.

ENG 414 / AAS 455 (LA)
Major Author(s): Toni Morrison and the Ethics of Reading

In the opening lines of her 2006 novel “A Mercy” Toni Morrison confront her readers with an ethical challenge: “One question is who is responsible? Another is can you read?” But how is Morrison asking us to read? And what does it mean to read responsibly? This course traces the relationship between reading, politics, and aesthetics in the work of Toni Morrison. Working across her published oeuvre and personal archive — from the “Bluest Eye” to “God Save the Child” we will explore Morrison as a critical reader, as a theorist of reading, and her novels as sites that interrogate reading practices.