Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature
What classes do you teach here at UCLA?
I teach classes on African Literature in Comparative Contexts, where we look at various literary traditions within Africa and compare them. Kenyan literature with South African and Nigerian literature, to give just a few examples, but we also look beyond the African continent to writers in the African diaspora, in the U.S. and the Caribbean. For example, in one class we look at the work of Langston Hughes, an African American writer who has been very influential to various African writers. And so we look at how writers in South Africa adapted some of his Simple Stories in various newspapers and magazines in the 1950s and 60s. Then we look at how those stories by South Africans were further adapted in other parts of southern Africa such as Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. So it’s doing a lot of inter-African literary comparison, but then also comparing across broader regional and global contexts. I also teach a course on African New Media Literature in which we look at the digital space and how its opening up new possibilities for African writers and especially for work in African languages. There’s this great magazine called Jalada, out of Kenya, which published a short story by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o that has been translated into over 60 languages, many African languages as well as other languages from around the globe. So it’s exciting for students to see really contemporary African Literature being produced on Facebook, on blogs, on Twitter, all these different new media platforms.
Is there something this department exhibited that you liked compared to other departments at other schools?
I think that this department has a really stellar faculty, all of my colleagues are leaders in their fields, so it’s a really wonderful faculty. We have a small department with a small number of Comparative Literature majors, which means that you get close personal attention. You have small seminars with professors, and that is rare for a big UC. I know that was rare for me as an undergraduate.
Is there anything else in general you would like to add about the department?
I’ve had a great experience at UCLA so far, I really enjoy the students here. I think they are smart and bring a lot of their own interesting experiences to the classroom and work really hard, and as a professor you always appreciate that, so it’s been a delight to get to know the students here.
What would you say to prospective students to convince them to enter the department?
I think gaining the tools of a comparatist are really important today. We tend to think of majors in the Humanities as learning great analytical skills or maybe close reading skills. But I think the ability to work across languages, across literary and cultural traditions, to be able to translate between languages but also work between new and old media for example are skills that people are really looking for today. I think the Comparative Literature degree, along with the Literary and Critical Theory you will be exposed to from doing the degree, are really valuable no matter what you decide to do after graduation.