Dr. Erica Edwards Wins MLA Publication Prize

By Elizabeth Brown, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
April 30, 2014

This January, UCR Associate Professor of English Dr. Erica Edwards received the Modern Language Association’s 12th Annual William Sanders Scarborough Prize for her outstanding scholarly study of African American literature or culture with her book Charisma and the Fictions of Black Leadership (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2012). This was her first published book, which she researched during graduate school at Duke University.

Dr. Edwards specializes in African American literature, gender and sexuality, and black political culture in UCR’s English department, which she has been her academic home for the past seven years. She sees her book as a “conversation about African American literature and what it has to teach about black political involvement and ideals that have stemmed since the reconstruction.” The book also examines why charismatic leadership is upheld and how it allows, but also shuts down “certain libertary possibilities.”

Edwards feels that the fiction that leads society to believe that social justice is impossible without charismatic, typically male, leadership leads to a political atmosphere that allows for many social inequalities in areas such as race and gender. She presents different approach to examining leadership and African American literature by asking the subject’s questions using “minor texts” that aren’t often included in the African American literature cannon, such as A Different Drummer by William Kelley and Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston.

Dr. Edwards is currently working on a new book called The Other Side of Terror, which will examine the effects of 9/11 on African American literature. This book focus on the expectations of race literature, and the post 9/11 changes that have come with writers and critics rethinking the categories of African American literature. She expresses how “African American characters are often scripted to be spokespersons and agents for a US multiracial democracy throughout the world,” and examines their necessity and agency in counter-terrorism, and the violence and terror surrounding those issues.

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