Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Chair

Kathy Lou Schultz

Committee Member

Terrence T Tucker

Committee Member

Donal Harris

Committee Member

Katherine Fredlund


This project attempts to bridge two strands of literary studies not typically in conversation with one another. On one hand, literary disciplinary histories have tended to focus on novels as a primary source material for telling a story about higher education but have dismissed the utility of poetry for institutional critique. On the other hand, scholars of African American literature have long recognized Black Arts Movement poets’ centrality to the formation of black institutions and their impact on African American literary criticism but have been less interested in exploring disciplinary concerns prior to the formation of Black Studies. This dissertation takes an unconventional approach to the field of institutional history and criticism and looks to poetry as a source material for telling a story about higher education. An overarching case this dissertation makes is that poetry’s penchant for interiority has been underutilized in exploring how personal and individuated experiences are related through the institutional. This unconventional approach allows space for marginalized figures not typically viewed as “official” voices of higher education to weigh in on educational discourse. Beginning with the work of Langston Hughes in the 1920s and working up through Gwendolyn Brooks, the Black Arts Movement, and the formation of Black Studies in the late 1960s, this dissertation reveals an unacknowledged or underacknowledged dialog between African American poets and the developments of higher education. This dissertation tracks with a larger historical narrative in African American letters that has viewed education as a path to liberation and seeks to understand how black writers in the second and third quarters of the twentieth century integrated, complicated, and challenged that view.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest


Embargoed until 8/1/2024

Available for download on Thursday, August 01, 2024