The Department Welcomes Gershun Avilez!

February 20, 2018

The English Department is delighted to announce that Professor GerShun Avilez will be joining us this fall as Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland.

GerShun is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Director of the Program in Sexuality Studies at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Professor Avilez received his PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009. He has an MA in English from Temple University, and a BA from Hendrix College. From 2013 to 2016, he was Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies at Yale University, and from 2009-2010, he was a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies at the University of Rochester. Avilez has a strong record of service and professional experience, serving on the editorial boards of American Literature, Callaloo, Ethos: A Digital Review of Arts, Humanities and Public Ethics,​ ​and The Encyclopedia of American Studies. At UNC, he serves on the Administrative Board of the Graduate School,​ ​and serves as​ ​Chair of the Curriculum Task Force. From 2017 to the present, he has been Director of Graduate Studies​ ​in English. He has also served as a faculty mentor for several undergraduate initiatives; it is a major testament that UNC honored him with the Poorvu Award for Distinguished Interdisciplinary Teaching, a coveted prize generally reserved for senior faculty.

Professor Avilez is the author of Radical Aesthetics and Modern Black Nationalism, which was published in 2016 as part of “The New Black Studies” Series at the University of Illinois Press. Through an examination of drama, novels, poetry, film, and visual art, Radical Aesthetics investigates how Black nationalist rhetoric of the 1960s and 1970s impacted African American artistic experimentation in the late 20th and 21st centuries. Radical Aesthetics won the 2017 William Sanders Scarborough Prize from the Modern Language Association (MLA), awarded annually for the outstanding scholarly study of black American literature or culture. The Scarborough Prize committee cited Radical Aesthetics as “a stunning achievement in its compelling expansion and queering of black nationalism through engagement with rhetorics that insist on formal innovation and experimentation as a method of translating the political anxieties, questions, and contradictions of Black Arts era nationalism." The committee noted that​ ​"Avilez’s focus on the ways tenets of the black nationalism have been challenged by queer people of color and black feminists is a brilliant strategy which allows original interpretations of artists not ordinarily associated with the Black Arts movement, such as Alice Walker, Faith Ringgold, John A. Williams, and Toni Cade Bambara​.​” Critics call Radical Aesthetics “bold​,​” “masterful​,​” and “innovative” in its​ ​rewriting of black cultural and literary nationalism, discovery of new ways of identifying and locating black radicalism, and attention to the visual and narrative arts as sites of radical experimentation.

Professor Avilez is completing his second monograph entitled, Race, Sex, & Space: Black Queer Bodies and Public Vulnerability, an interdisciplinary book-length project on questions of space in Black Diasporic art. This book significantly expands his scholarly reach, ​as he ​turn​s his attention to​ward​ queer literary and visual artists in the artistic space of the African Diaspora with considerations of material culture in multiple forms of visual art and art installations.