Steven W. Thomas, Wagner College
Barra Sabbatical Fellow
Steven W. Thomas is associate professor in the English department at Wagner College in New York. In addition to teaching and writing about early American literature, he also taught film theory as a Fulbright Scholar at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia in the fall of 2016, and his coauthored essay on ethnic Oromo Cinema was published this year in Cine-Ethiopia: The History and Politics of Film in the Horn of Africa. At the McNeil Center he is working on his book project “Multiethnic Ethiopia and American Literary History” that traces the circulation of knowledge about Ethiopia in American print culture. His book begins in the fifteenth century with exchanges of Portuguese and Abyssinian ambassadors responding to the mythology of Prester John and ends in the twenty-first century with Ethiopian-American Diaspora novelists, filmmakers, and political activists. Covering the long history between these two end points, Thomas aims to recover and highlight the importance of Ethiopia’s ethnic diversity for the fraught conversation about slavery and race in America addressed by authors such as Cotton Mather, Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Alice Walker.