Wooster’s John Barnard Honored by the Modern Language Association

Assistant professor of English receives honorable mention designation for prestigious Parker Prize

10 December 2014 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio, — John Barnard, assistant professor of English at The College of Wooster, has been recognized by the Modern Language Association (MLA) for his article, "Ancient History, American Time: Chesnutt's Outsider Classicism and the Present Past," which appeared in the January 2014 issue of the organization's journal of literary scholarship, PMLA. The article was chosen as an honorable mention selection in the 51st annual William Riley Parker Prize, which will be presented next month during the association's annual convention in Vancouver.

"It's an honor just to be published in PMLA, even more so to honored with an award," said Barnard. "But I give a lot of the credit for whatever qualities the article might have to the journal itself; its editors and anonymous readers were extremely helpful to me in shaping the argument not only of the article, but of the larger work from which it is drawn."

The selection committee's citation for Barnard's article noted its excellence in "both its critical practice and as a contribution to literary studies." The committee members went on to say that "Barnard shows how African American writers engage with ancient sites and classical traditions — centered in Egypt rather than Greece or Rome — for aesthetic and strategic reasons. Barnard's expert handling of diverse materials and his layered close readings reveal the complex intertextuality of these interactions. In particular, he captures Charles Chesnutt's project to forge non-Eurocentric literary genealogies for American history without eliding the local political contexts of those literatures. Alert to competing narratives about blackness and slavery in the past and present, Barnard reads Chesnutt's tactics as explicating the violence inherent to the very construction of historical identities."

Barnard, who joined Wooster's faculty in 2013, received his B.A. from Yale University, his M.A. from Johns Hopkins University, and his Ph.D. from Boston University. He has taught as an instructor at Holy Cross and as a lecturer at Harvard. His articles and reviews have appeared in such publications as American Literature and Religion and the Arts. He is currently working on a book manuscript titled, "Ruins amidst Ruins: Black Classicism in the American Empire."

The Modern Language Association and its 30,000 members in 100 countries work to strengthen the study and teaching of languages and literature. Founded in 1883, the MLA provides opportunities for its members to share their scholarly findings and teaching experiences with colleagues and to discuss trends in the academy.