Assistant Professor James McCorkle ’76 recently presented a paper at the 125th Annual Modern Language Association Convention in Philadelphia, as part of a panel organized by the Division of Nonfiction Prose Studies.
His paper, “The Open Letter from Phillis Wheatley to Langston Hughes,” considered examples of African American open letters as not only a form of apostrophic self-representation but also articulating possible discursive forms of public opposition to slavery and racism from the colonial period to the early 20th century.
“Wheatley’s appeals to a common Christian humanity gave way to Benjamin Banneker’s 1791 letter challenging Jefferson and the U.S. Constitution and then to David Walker’s 1829 appeal for revolution should the United States persist in maintaining support of the slave economy. Langston Hughes returns, in his verse letter, to Wheatley’s appeal but in terms of shared conditions based on class,” McCorkle said.
A graduate of Hobart College and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, McCorkle received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.
His scholarly interests include Anglophone poetry in the New World, including work on John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Kamau Brathwaite, Emily Dickinson, Susan Howe, Harryette Mullen, and Derek Walcott; the relationship between the prose and poetry; and recent African fiction.
His most recent project was editing, with Jeffrey Gray and Mary McAleer Balkun of Seton Hall University, “The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry” (2006). He is also a poet, his collection “Evidences” (2003) received the American Poetry Review/Honickman Award; he also has had poems appear in recent issues of such journals as The American Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, Gulfcoast and Ploughshares.