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Michele Elam

Michele Elam

Affiliated Faculty
Profile / Bio: 
William Robertson Coe Professor
Director of the Graduate Program in Modern Thought and Literature (MTL)
Olivier Nomellini Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education



Michele Elam is the William Robertson Coe Professor, Director of Stanford University's interdisciplinary graduate program, Modern Thought and Literature (MTL), the Olivier Nomellini Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, and Professor of English. Former Director of African & African American Studies, she is affiliated with the Program in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Studies, the Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity and on the Director’s Council for the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the 

Her scholarship and teaching in interdisciplinary humanities research spans literature and social science in order to examine changing cultural interpretations of gender and race. Her most recent scholarship is especially interested in how racial perception impacts outcomes for health, wealth and social justice.

Elam has recently been awarded the 2018 Darwin T. Turner Award for Outstanding Scholarship by the African American Literature and Culture Society at the American Literature Association Conference. Her books include Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2003), The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium (Stanford University Press, 2011), and is Editor of the Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (Cambridge University Press, 2015). She has published articles in African American ReviewAmerican LiteratureTheatre Journal and Genre, among others as well as op-eds for CNN, Huffington Post, and Boston Review. Her work appears in many collections on race and culture, including Subjects and Citizens: Nation, Race and Gender from Oroonoko to Anita Hill (eds. Cathy Davidson and Michael Moon, Duke University Press) and in W.E.B. Du Bois and the Gender of the Color-Line (eds. Susan Gillman and Alys Weinbaum, University of Minnesota Press).

Former Chair of the Executive Committee for the Black Literatures & Culture Division of the Modern Language Association and Former Chair of the Executive Council for the American Literature Society at MLA, she serves on the Editorial Boards for the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies and African American Review and for the James Baldwin Project

Dedicated to teaching, Elam is thrice the recipient of the St Clair Drake Outstanding Teaching Award at Stanford (2004, 2006, 2015) and has twice received the Faculty Award for “Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Students as a Teacher, Advisor and Mentor” from the Program in Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity (2013, 2018), among her other teaching awards. Recent undergraduate and graduate seminars include the Harlem Renaissance, James Baldwin & American Culture; Got Genius? W.E.B. Du Bois; Toni Morrison & the Occasion of Feminism; Gender Studies for the 21st Century; Mixed Race Politics & Culture; Mixed Race Literature in the U.S and South Africa; Narratives of Enslavement & Theories of Redress; and Literature of Inequality: Have & Have-Nots from the Gilded Age to the Occupy Era.