A New Gem: Dr. Michelle Wright!

Staff Writer: Monet Timmons
26 Sept. 2017

The new school year brings not only new students but new professors as well. Luckily, Emory University's English Department gathered a new gem: Dr. Michelle M. Wright. Approaching the new school year, students and returning faculty expressed their excitement for Dr. Wright's arrival. Students hunted OPUS (Online Pathway to University Students) for any and all classes taught by Dr. Wright. Professors and faculty were excited by her interdisciplinary leadership and her talents as a teacher and mentor. Now that Dr. Wright has arrived at Emory, she is ready to make her mark at the university and impact the lives of her students.

Before coming to Emory, Dr. Wright taught at Northwestern University in Illinois. Although she was not looking to leave Northwestern, she was attracted by Emory’s offer of the August Baldwin Longstreet Chair in English to Dr. Wright. The position gives professors funding for research and programs through the English Department that allow for conversations in minority discourse to continue in collaboration with other departments on campus.  

"I am most excited about meeting young scholars and really supporting their work," said Dr. Wright. She is also excited to help build and sustain a more diverse graduate student population in the English Department.

Dr. Wright's research includes theorizing Black identity in order to better understand the intellectual history of Blackness, as opposed to the early notions of Blackness imposed from white or Western ideology.

"I am finding ways to represent Blackness and defining it so that it's inclusive," explains Dr. Wright. In other words, she wants to ensure that people understand that Blackness is not monolithic and includes a plethora of experiences.

One of Dr. Wright's best-known works, her book Physics of Blackness, challenges the idea that Blackness exists on a linear timeline.  Adapting notions of time developed in the field of physics, Dr. Wright argues that Blackness should be defined by the "when" and the "where" instead of a "what."

Dr. Wright continues this discussion in her class this fall entitled "Blackness in Europe" (ENG 389W). The class examines travel narratives from African American writers and artists who fled to Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to escape racism and discrimination in the United States. Students in the class actively participate and listen to Dr. Wright as she shares her knowledge through lecture, short videos and readings. This particular topic is especially important to Dr. Wright since she was born and raised through much of her adolescence in Europe. Growing up she noticed few Black students in her private school. The Black students she did encounter came from all parts of the world and offered diverse experiences.  

"There are different types of Blackness and different ways to be Black," concluded Dr. Wright.

With a full roster in her class this semester, Dr. Wright has already inspired many undergraduate and graduate students despite her short time at Emory. Emory University, specifically the English Department, looks forward to more of Dr. Wright for years to come.