Profile: John Keene

Associate Professor and Chair of African American and African Studies

Faculty
Department of African American and African Studies, Department of English, MFA in Creative Writing

John Keene is the author of the novel Annotations (New Directions, 1995); the poetry collection Seismosis (1913 Press, 2006), a collaboration with artist Christopher Stackhouse; the short fiction collection Counternarratives (New Directions, 2015), which received a 2016 American Book Award, a 2016 Lannan Literary Award, and was one of two Finalists for the 2016 William Saroyan International Prize for Fiction Writing; the art book GRIND (ITI Press, 2016), an art-text collaboration with photographer Nicholas Muellner; and the poetry chapbook Playland (Seven Kitchens Press, 2016).

He has published his fiction, poetry, essays, and translations in a wide array of journals, and his honors include a 2003 New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, a 2005 Whiting Foundation Award in Fiction and Poetry and a 2008 Fellowship for Distinguished First Poetry Collection from the inaugural Pan-African Literary Forum. Keene's introduction to the first English translation of Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst's novel The Obscene Madame D appeared in Fall 2012 (Nightboat Books/A Bolha Editora), and his translation from the Portuguese of Hilst's novel Letters from a Seducer (Nightboat Books/A Bolha Editora) was published in February 2014. His essay "Translating Poetry, Translating Blackness" was featured on the Poetry Foundation's website in the spring of 2016, and his essay "Translating Brazil's Marquise de Sade," on Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst, will appear in a forthcoming volume of essays on Hilst edited by Adam Morris, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan.

A longtime member of the Dark Room Writers Collective of Cambridge and Boston, and a Graduate Fellow of Cave Canem, he has taught at Brown University; Northwestern University, where he served as Director of the undergraduate Creative Writing Program and Acting Co-Director of the MA/MFA in Creative Writing Program; and other institutions. He served on the inaugural juries for the Cave Canem Second Book Prize and the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize, both published by Northwestern University Press. He serves as a fiction and hybrid writing editor at the literary journal Obsidian, and also is a member of the planning and organizational committee and the publication jury for the African Poetry Book Series, which includes the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and which is under the auspices of the University of Nebraska's African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner.

Since 2002, he has engaged in a durational and collaborative conceptual art project, under the title of "The Emotional Outreach Project" (Field Study Research Group A), in Chicago, Jersey City, and New York City, and has exhibited versions of the Emotional Outreach Project (4.0) at This Red Door, Kunsthalle Galapagos, Brooklyn and (5.0) at This Red Door, REH-Kunst, Berlin. The newest versions of this project, the Emotional Exercises (6.0), were first exhibited at This Red Door in Brooklyn, in January and February 2014. In December 2015, he was Artist-in-Residence at the Ace Hotel New York, and his artwork from that residency was on exhibit at the One Night Only show at the Ace Hotel from January 8-31, 2015.

Recent mentions, reviews, and interviews:

Times Literary Supplement (UK) - "Exceed Every Limit"

http://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/exceed-every-limit/

Times Literary Supplement (UK) - "Summer Books" (2016)

http://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/summer-books/

Flavorwire -- "Best Fiction of 2015"

http://flavorwire.com/552401/the-best-fiction-of-2015/4

Lambda Literary -- "Ten of this Year's Standout LGBTQ Books"

http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/oped/12/11/ten-of-this-years-stan...

LitHub - "25 Best Books of the Year, According to Booksellers"

http://lithub.com/the-25-best-books-of-the-year-according-to-booksellers/

New York Magazine’s “Vulture” – “Best Books of 2015 (So Far)”

http://www.vulture.com/2015/07/best-books-of-2015-so-far.html

Research Interests: Fiction writing; poetry and poetics; 20th and 21st Century American, African American and African Diasporic literary and cultural studies; LGBTIQ and gender studies; Black and global aesthetics; translation and translation studies.

  • Associated Programs

    English (Associate Professor); MFA Program in Creative Writing; American Studies Program.

  • Courses Taught

    Undergraduate
    Special Topics:  Letras Negras:  Afro-Latin Literature (Fall 2012)

    Special Topics: The Black Arts Movement (Spring 2013)

    Introduction to African American Studies II (Spring 2013)

    Foundations of Literary Study (Fall 2013, Fall 2015)

    Comparative Literatures of Africa and the Caribbean: History and Myth in Contemporary African Diasporic Fiction (Spring 2014)

    Graduate
    Topics in Literature: Postmodernism: Posthumanism and Transhumanism (Fall 2012)

    Writers at Newark II (Spring 2014)

    MFA in Fiction Workshop (Fall 2015, Spring 2016)

    Topics in Literature: Postmodernism: Beauty, Ideology, Power (Fall 2016)

  • Education

    AB, Harvard College
    MFA, New York University

  • Publications

    Annotations (New Directions, 1995)

    Seismosis, with artwork by Christopher Stackhouse (chapbook, Center for Book Arts, 2003; full version, 1913 Press, 2006)

    Letters from a Seducer, by Hilda Hilst, translated from the Portuguese (Nightboat Books and A Bolha Editora, 2014)

    Counternarratives (New Directions, 2015; Fitzcarraldo Editions, UK 2016; Éditions Cambourakis, France, 2016)

    GRIND, with photographs by Nicholas Muellner (ITI Press, 2016)

    Playland (Seven Kitchens Press, 2016)

    Essays, fiction, poetry, translations, and reviews published in African American Review, Agni, A Public Space, Aufgabe, Baffler, Callaloo, Fence, Frieze, Hambone, Indiana Review, Kenyon Review, Mandorla, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Vanitas, Vice, Volta/Evening Will Come, Washington Post Book World, and numerous other print and online journals, as well as many anthologies.

  • Subjects Taught

    Fiction writing; poetry and poetics; 20th and 21st Century American, African American and African Diasporic literary and cultural studies; Black and global aesthetics; translation and translation studies.

  • Awards

    2016, Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, for Counternarratives.

    2016, American Book Award for Counternarratives.

    2015, Flavorwire's Best Literary Criticism of 2015 for "On Vanessa Place, Gone With the Wind, and the Limit Point of Certain Conceptual Aesthetics."

    2014, Artist in Residence, Ace Hotel, New York, December 7, 2014.

    2014, "Mannahatta" (short story) selected for Huffington Post's "15 Amazing Works of Fiction You Can Read Under 30 Minutes

    2006, E. Leroy Hall Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University.

    2005, Fellowship in Fiction and Poetry, Whiting Foundation

    2003, Fellowship in Poetry, New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

    2000, Agni's John Cheever Short Fiction Prize (the best short story published in 1998-1999), for "An Outtake from the Ideological Origins of the American Revolution."

    1999, Award for Contributions to Literature, Fund for Poetry, New York City, December 1999.

    1996, University Fellowship, New York University.

    1995, New York Times Foundation Fellowship, New York University.

    1995, Publishers Weekly "Top 25 Fiction Books of 1995," and "Top 50 Books of 1995" lists, for Annotations.

    1995, The Critics’ Choice Award, in The Critics’ Choice 1995-1996, sponsored by San Francisco Review of Books and Today’s First Edition, for Annotations.

    1990, Fellowship in Fiction, Artists Foundation of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Cultural Council.