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  • John Ernest, Chair

    Chair
    Judge Hugh M. Morris Professor
    208 Memorial Hall
    (302) 831-3351

    Biography

    John Ernest, Professor and Chair of the Department of English, is the author or editor of twelve books and over forty journal articles and book chapters. His recent books include Liberation Historiography: African American Writers and the Challenge of History, 1794-1861 (2004), Chaotic Justice: Rethinking African American Literary History (2009), A Nation Within a Nation: Organizing African American Communities before the Civil War (2011), Douglass in His Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of His Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates (2014), and the Oxford Handbook of the African American Slave Narrative (2014). Recent editions include Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself (2008), J. McHenry Jones's Hearts of Gold (co-edited with Eric Gardner, 2010), and William Wells Brown's My Southern Home; Or, The South and Its People (2011). His current book project is Reading While White: The Nineteenth-Century Roots of White Racism. He and Joycelyn K. Moody are general editors of Regenerations: African American Literature and Culture, a series published by West Virginia University Press and devoted to reprinting good editions of undervalued works by early African American writers. 

    Before arriving at the University of Delaware, he was the Eberly Family Distinguished Professor of American Literature at West Virginia University for seven years, and he taught for twelve years at the University of New Hampshire, where he served as Director of Undergraduate Composition, Co-Director of the Discovery Program, and Director of African American Studies. At UNH, he received the Outstanding Assistant Professor Award (1997), the UNH Diversity Support Coalition's Positive Change Award (1998), the Jean Brierley Award for Excellence in Teaching (2003-2004), and the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Award for Higher Education (2004).

 

 

208 Memorial Hall<div class="ExternalClass00784F6548704D6EA60FD56575492B61"><p>John Ernest, Professor and Chair of the Department of English, is the author or editor of twelve books and over forty journal articles and book chapters. His recent books include <em>Liberation Historiography: African American Writers and the Challenge of History, 1794-1861 </em>(2004), <em>Chaotic Justice: Rethinking African American Literary History </em>(2009), <em>A Nation Within a Nation: Organizing African American Communities before the Civil War</em> (2011), <em>Douglass in His Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of His Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates </em>(2014), and the <em>Oxford Handbook of the African American Slave Narrative </em>(2014). Recent editions include <em>Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself</em> (2008), J. McHenry Jones's <em>Hearts of Gold </em>(co-edited with Eric Gardner, 2010), and William Wells Brown's <em>My Southern Home; Or, The South and Its People</em> (2011). His current book project is <em>Reading While White: The Nineteenth-Century Roots of White Racism</em>. He and Joycelyn K. Moody are general editors of <em>Regenerations: African American Literature and Culture</em>, a series published by West Virginia University Press and devoted to reprinting good editions of undervalued works by early African American writers. <br></p><p>Before arriving at the University of Delaware, he was the Eberly Family Distinguished Professor of American Literature at West Virginia University for seven years, and he taught for twelve years at the University of New Hampshire, where he served as Director of Undergraduate Composition, Co-Director of the Discovery Program, and Director of African American Studies. At UNH, he received the Outstanding Assistant Professor Award (1997), the UNH Diversity Support Coalition's Positive Change Award (1998), the Jean Brierley Award for Excellence in Teaching (2003-2004), and the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Award for Higher Education (2004).</p></div>jrernest@udel.eduErnest, John(302) 831-3351<img alt="" src="/Images%20Bios/FAC_Ernest_John-2012-07_180.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />ChairJudge Hugh M. Morris ProfessorNamed ProfessorAfrican American Literature;American Literature;Cultural Studies;Print and Material Culture Studies;Race and Ethnicity StudiesB.A. English, State University of New York at Binghamton; M.A. English, University of Virginia; Ph.D. English, University of Virginia

 

 

The Oxford Handbook of the African American Slave NarrativeErnest, John2014http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199731480.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199731480<p>The Oxford Handbook of the African American Slave Narrative approaches the history of slave testimony in three ways: by prioritizing the broad tradition over individual authors; by representing interdisciplinary approaches to slave narratives; and by highlighting emerging scholarship on slave narratives, concerning both established debates over concerns of authorship and agency, for example, and developing concerns like ecocritical readings of slave narratives. Ultimately, the aim of the Handbook is not to highlight the singularity of any particular account, nor to comfortably locate slave narratives in traditional literary or cultural history, but rather to faithfully represent a body of writing and testimony that was designed to speak for the many, to represent the unspeakable, and to account for the experience of enslaved and nominally free communities. The Handbook is organized into six sections: “Historical Fractures,” “Layered Testimonies,” “Textual Bindings,” “Experience and Authority,” “Environments and Migrations,” and “Echoes and Traces.” The Handbook’s contributing scholars address testimony from a broad range of sources, including traditional archives, Works Progress Administration (WPA), newspapers, diaries or memoirs, pension records, and even the testimony suggested by traces in the landscape and architecture of slave plantations. The reach of sources covered in the Handbook is not exhaustive, but instead is intended to indicate the broad range of sources from which testimony can be recovered. Other chapters address matters of gender, sexuality, and community, environmental concerns, legal contexts and implications, and manifestations of slave testimony in visual and aural cultures. Many essays work to locate African American slave narratives both historically and geographically, through considerations of literary history, through considerations of the geography covered by slave narratives, and through hemispheric and transatlantic connections central to understanding U.S. testimony. There are no chapters devoted to major writers, since various resources already exist for that purpose and since those writers emerge as central figures in many of the essays. The purpose of all chapters in the Handbook is to account for the conventional wisdom on the subject in the process of exploring critical new directions for approaching these concerns. The Handbook’s goal is to encourage research on a great number of understudied narratives while demonstrating the rich complexity of this field of study for those just entering it.</p>jrernest
Douglass in His Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of His Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and MemoirsErnest, JohnUniversity of Iowa PressIowa City, IA2014http://www.uiowapress.org/books/2014-fall/douglass-his-own-time.htmOne of the most incredible stories in American history is that of Frederick Douglass, the man who escaped from slavery and rose to become one of the most celebrated and eloquent orators, writers, and public figures in the world. He first committed his story to writing in his 1845 autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Over the course of his life, he would expand on his story considerably, writing two other autobiographies, My Bondage and My Freedom and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, as well as innumerable newspaper articles and editorials and orations. As valuable as these writings are in illuminating the man, the story Douglass told in 1845 has become rather too easy to tell, obscuring as much as it reveals. Less a living presence than an inspiring tale, Frederick Douglass remains relatively unknown even to many of those who celebrate his achievements. Douglass in His Own Time offers an introduction to Douglass the man by those who knew him. The bookincludes a broad range of writings, some intended for public viewing and some private correspondence, all of which contend with the force of Douglass's tremendous power over the written and spoken word, his amazing presence before crowds, his ability to improvise, to entertain, to instruct, to inspire, indeed, to change lives through his eloquent appeals to righteous self-awareness and social justice. In approaching Douglass through the biographical sketches, memoirs, letters, editorials, and other articles about him, readers will encounter the complexity of a life lived on a very public stage, the story of an extraordinary black man in an insistently white world.jrernest
My Southern Home: The South and Its PeopleErnest, JohnWilliam Wells BrownUniversity of North Carolina PressChapel Hill, NC2011http://uncpress.unc.edu/books/10299.htmlThe culmination of William Wells Brown's long writing career, My Southern Home is the story of Brown's search for a home in a land of slavery and racism. Brown (1814-84), a prolific and celebrated abolitionist and writer often recognized as the first African American novelist for his Clotel (1853), was born enslaved in Kentucky and escaped to Ohio in 1834. In this comprehensive edition, John Ernest acts as a surefooted guide to this seminal work, beginning with a substantial introduction placing Brown's life and work in cultural and historical context. Brown addresses from a post-emancipation vantage point his early experiences and understanding of the world of slavery and describes his travels through many southern states. The text itself is presented in its original form, while Ernest's annotations highlight its layered complexity and document the many instances in which Brown borrows from his own earlier writings and the writings of others to form an underlying dialogue. This edition sheds new light on Brown's literary craft and provides readers with the maps they need to follow Brown on his quest for home in the chaotic social landscape of American southern culture in the final decades of the nineteenth century. jrernest
A Nation Within a Nation: Organizing African-American Communities Before the Civil WarErnest, JohnIvan R. DeeLanham, MD2011http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nation-within-a-nation-john-ernest/1100219366John Ernest offers a comprehensive survey of the broad-ranging and influential African American organizations and networks formed in the North in the late eighteenth century through the end of the Civil War. He examines fraternal organizations, churches, conventions, mutual aid benefit and literary societies, educational organizations, newspapers, and magazines. Ernest argues these organizations demonstrate how African Americans self-definition was not solely determined by slavery as they tried to create organizations in the hope of creating a community.jrernest
Hearts of GoldErnest, JohnJ. McHenry JonesWest Virginia University Press2010http://wvupressonline.com/jones_hearts_of_gold_9781933202525<p>​J. McHenry Jones’s <em>Hearts of Gold</em> is a gripping tale of post–Civil War battles against racism and systemic injustice. Originally published in 1896, this novel reveals an African American community of individuals dedicated to education, journalism, fraternal organizations, and tireless work serving the needs of those abandoned by the political process of the white world. Jones challenges conventional wisdom by addressing a range of subjects—from interracial relationships to forced labor in coal mines—that virtually no other novelist of the time was willing to approach. With the addition of an introduction and appendix, this new edition reveals the difficult foundations upon which African Americans built a platform to address injustice, generate opportunities, and play a prominent role in American social, economic, and political life.</p>jrernest
Chaotic Justice: Rethinking African American Literary HistoryErnest, JohnUniversity of North CarolinaChapel Hill, NC2009http://uncpress.unc.edu/browse/book_detail?title_id=1650What is African American about African American literature? Why identify it as a distinct tradition? John Ernest contends that too often scholars have relied on naïve concepts of race, superficial conceptions of African American history, and the marginalization of important strains of black scholarship. With this book, he creates a new and just retelling of African American literary history that neither ignores nor transcends racial history. Ernest revisits the work of nineteenth-century writers and activists such as Henry "Box" Brown, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Wilson, William Wells Brown, and Sojourner Truth, demonstrating that their concepts of justice were far more radical than those imagined by most white sympathizers. He sheds light on the process of reading, publishing, studying, and historicizing this work during the twentieth century. Looking ahead to the future of the field, Ernest offers new principles of justice that grant fragmented histories, partial recoveries, and still-unprinted texts the same value as canonized works. His proposal is both a historically informed critique of the field and an invigorating challenge to present and future scholars.jrernest
Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself, 1st ed.Ernest, JohnUniversity of North Carolina PressChapel Hill, NC2008http://uncpress.unc.edu/browse/book_detail?title_id=1560It is the most celebrated escape in the history of American slavery. Henry Brown had himself sealed in a three-foot-by-two-foot box and shipped from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, a twenty-seven-hour journey to freedom. In Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself, Brown not only tells the story of his famed escape, but also recounts his later life as a black man making his way through white American and British culture. Most important, he paints a revealing portrait of the reality of slavery, of the wife and children sold away from him, the home to which he could not return, and his rejection of the slaveholders' religion--painful episodes that fueled his desire for freedom. This edition comprises the most complete and faithful representation of Brown's life, fully annotated for the first time. John Ernest also provides an insightful introduction that places Brown's life in its historical setting and illuminates the challenges Brown faced in an often threatening world, both before and after his legendary escape.jrernest
Liberation Historiography: African American Writers and the Challenge of History, 1794-1861Ernest, JohnUniversity of North Carolina PressChapel Hill, NC2004http://uncpress.unc.edu/browse/book_detail?title_id=1295As the story of the United States was recorded in pages written by white historians, early-nineteenth-century African American writers faced the task of piecing together a counterhistory: an approach to history that would present both the necessity of and the means for the liberation of the oppressed. In Liberation Historiography, John Ernest demonstrates that African Americans created a body of writing in which the spiritual, the historical, and the political are inextricably connected. Their literature serves not only as historical recovery but also as historical intervention. Ernest studies various cultural forms including orations, books, pamphlets, autobiographical narratives, and black press articles. He shows how writers such as Martin R. Delany, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, and Harriet Jacobs crafted their texts in order to resituate their readers in a newly envisioned community of faith and moral duty. Antebellum African American historical representation, Ernest concludes, was both a reading of source material on black lives and an unreading of white nationalist history through an act of moral imagination.jrernest
The Escape; A Leap for FreedomErnest, JohnWilliam Wells BrownUniversity of Tennessee Press2001http://utpress.org/title/the-escape/<p>A well-known nineteenth-century abolitionist and former slave, William Wells Brown was a prolific writer and lecturer who captivated audiences with readings of his drama <em>The Escape; or, a Leap for Freedom</em> (1858). The first published play by an African American writer, <em>The Escape</em> explored the complexities of American culture at a time when tensions between North and South were about to explode into the Civil War. This new volume presents the first-edition text of Brown’s play and features an extensive introduction that establishes the work’s continuing significance.</p><p><em>The Escape</em> centers on the attempted sexual violation of a slave and involves many characters of mixed race, through which Brown commented on such themes as moral decay, white racism, and black self-determination. Rich in action and faithful in dialect, it raises issues relating not only to race but also to gender by including concepts of black and white masculinity and the culture of southern white and enslaved women. It portrays a world in which slavery provided a convenient means of distinguishing between the white North and the white South, allowing northerners to express moral sentiments without recognizing or addressing the racial prejudice pervasive among whites in both regions.</p><p>John Ernest’s introductory essay balances the play’s historical and literary contexts, including information on Brown and his career, as well as on slavery, abolitionism, and sectional politics. It also discusses the legends and realities of the Underground Railroad, examines the role of antebellum performance art—including blackface minstrelsy and stage versions of <em>Uncle Tom’s Cabin</em>—in the construction of race and national identity, and provides an introduction to theories of identity as performance.</p><p>A century and a half after its initial appearance, <em>The Escape</em> remains essential reading for students of African American literature. Ernest’s keen analysis of this classic play will enrich readers’ appreciation of both the drama itself and the era in which it appeared.</p><p>The Editor: John Ernest is an associate professor of English at the University of New Hampshire and author of <em>Resistance and Reformation in Nineteenth-Century African-American Literature: Brown, Wilson, Jacobs, Delany, Douglass, and Harper.</em></p>jrernest
Resistance and Reformation in Nineteenth-Century African-American Literature: Brown, Wilson, Jacobs, Delany, Douglass, and HarperErnest, JohnUniversity Press of Mississippi1995https://www.amazon.com/Resistance-Reformation-Nineteenth-Century-African-American-Literature/dp/1617034738/ref=dp_ob_title_bkAn examination of how six prominent African-American writers of the nineteenth century reconfigured a threatening world.<br>jrernest

 

 

 

 

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  • Department of English
  • 203 Memorial Hall
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • University of Delaware
  • Phone: 302-831-2361
  • english@udel.edu