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  • Carol Henderson
    Vice Provost for Diversity
    University of Delaware
    Department of English
    116 Hullihen Hall
    Newark, DE 19716
    (302) 831-2101


    Carol E. Henderson (B.A. University of California, Los Angeles; M.A. California State University of Dominguez Hills; Ph.D. University of California, Riverside) is the author of Scarring the Black Body: Race and Representation in African American Literature (U of Missouri Press 2002), and editor of Imagining the Black Female Body: Reconciling Image in Print and Visual Culture (Palgrave MacMillan 2010); America and the Black Body: Identity Politics in Print and Visual Culture ( Fairleigh Dickinson University Press 2009); and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain: Historical and Critical Essays (Peter Lang Publishers 2006). She has contributed essays to such collections as The Black Body Project: Imagining, Writing, (Re)Reading, Confinement Literature: African American Literature from the Plantation to the Prison, Richard Wright’s Native Son: Critical Essays, Folklore and Popular Film, Ann Petry’s Short Fiction: Critical Essays, and James Baldwin and Toni Morrison: Comparative Critical and Theoretical Essays, and published articles in The Griot: The Journal of African American Studies, The Journal of Popular Culture, Modern Fiction Studies, Legacy, Religion and Literature and elsewhere. She has also served as special issue editor for the journals MELUS and MAWA. She regularly offers courses in African American and American literature and culture that focus on representations of the black body in print, film and art. She is the recipient of several community, professional and research awards, including the University of Delaware’s Excellence in Teaching Award (2006, 1996), the Richard “Dick” Wilson Mentoring Award (2002), Commitment to Diversity Award—Residence Student Life (2003), and the AIDS Task Force Dedicated Service Award from Beautiful Gate Outreach Center in Wilmington, DE (2006). In 2011, she was recognized as a top ten finalist for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars Inspire Integrity Award. Previously the Chair of the Department of Black American Studies, Professor Henderson currently serves as Vice Provost for Diversity.



  • Ph.D., English, University of California - Riverside, 1995
  • M.A., English, California State University - Dominquez Hills, 1991
  • B.A., Political Science, University of California - Los Angeles, 1986

Research Projects 


  • Imagining the Black Female Body: Reconciling Image in Print and Visual Culture
    Henderson, Carol
    New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010.

    ​This volume explores issues of black female identity through the various “imaginings” of the black female body in print and visual culture. Offering an exploration of the continuities and discontinuities of subjectivity and agency, this collection reveals black women’s expressivity as a multilayered enterprise, liberating and similarly confining. Thus these representations in art, literature, and culture perform a delicate and challenging dance of redemption—a redemption necessary to flesh out the precarious dynamics of being black and female at the turn of this century. Contributions emphasize the ways in which the black female body is framed and how black women (and their allies) have sought to write themselves back into social discourses on their terms.

  • America and the Black Body: Identity Politics in Print and Visual Culture
    Henderson, Carol
    Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2009.

    ​It is difficult to be sure of how or when, but there is no question that the superficial and metaphoric difference between various groups of human beings adversely affected the ideological figurations of 'race' in the Americas. As we now know, 'race' has never been a fixed concept, but an ever-evolving idea intimately connected to the social, moral, and biological landscape of American society. It is the latter - the biological landscape of America - that anchors this collection. In particular this collection investigates the ways in which America, through its literary, scientific, social, and legal cultures, sought to 'define' itself through the black body, and how these racial imaginings reveal the tenuous ties that connect American identity to these ideals. These representations are multifaceted: from the phenomenological depictions of the body vis-a-vis inanimate objects, to the material/cultural artifacts that seek to re-present the black body in public spaces vis-a-vis the literary marketplace and the court room. Authors examined in this title include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Derrick Bell, William Dean Howells, Toni Morrison, Jesse Fauset, Kate Chopin, and Danzy Senna.

  • James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain: Historical and Critical Essays
    Henderson, Carol
    New York: Peter Lang, 2006.

    ​The publication of James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain ushered in a new age of the urban telling of a tale twice told yet rarely expressed in such vivid portraits. Go Tell It unveils the struggle of man with his God and that of man with himself. Baldwin’s intense scrutiny of the spiritual and communal customs that serve as moral centers of the black community directs attention to the striking incongruities of religious fundamentalism and oppression. This book examines these multiple impulses, challenging the widely held convention that politics and religion do not mix.

  • Scarring the Black Body: Race and Representation in African American Literature
    Henderson, Carol
    Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2002.

    ​Scarring and the act of scarring are recurrent images in African American literature. In Scarring the Black Body, Carol E. Henderson analyzes the cultural and historical implications of scarring in a number of African American texts that feature the trope of the scar, including works by Sherley Anne Williams, Toni Morrison, Ann Petry, Ralph Ellison, and Richard Wright.

    The first part of Scarring the Black Body, “The Call,” traces the process by which African bodies were Americanized through the practice of branding. Henderson incorporates various materials—from advertisements for the return of runaways to slave narratives—to examine the cultural practice of “writing” the body. She also considers ways in which writers and social activists, including Frederick Douglass, Olaudah Equiano, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth, developed a “call” centered on the body’s scars to demand that people of African descent be given equal rights and protection under the law.

    In the second part of the book, “The Response,” Henderson goes on to show that more recent representations of the conditions of slavery by authors such as Williams and Morrison extend the efforts of their predecessors by developing creative responses to those calls centered around the African American body and its scars. Henderson explores Williams’s reinvention of the whip-scarred body in her novel Dessa Rose and provides a close analysis of Morrison’s use of scar imagery in Beloved. She also devotes a chapter to Petry’s The Street and concludes with an investigation of the wounded black male psyche in the works of Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright.

    Scarring the Black Body demonstrates that the creative acts of these authors bind together that which has been wounded both literally and figuratively. Those who hear the voices of the ancestors are urged to connect to that part of themselves wherein wounds of the past carry a self-knowledge that can alter the experiences of the present. In this way, the disfigured body as a cultural metaphor and social invention can come to terms with its own humanity and embodiment.

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