Wesleyan portrait of Garry  Bertholf

Garry Bertholf

Assistant Professor of African American Studies

Center for African American St, 228


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BA Colby College
MA University of Pennsylvania
PHD University of Pennsylvania

Garry Bertholf

Professor Bertholf’s research and teaching focus on Africana literature and literary criticism, critical theory, and Black intellectual history. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, Journal of Popular Music Studies, south: a scholarly journal (formerly The Southern Literary Journal), Viewpoint MagazineDiacritikThe Martyrs Shuffle, The Philosophical Quarterly, the Nation Divided series at the University of Virginia Press, the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha series at the University Press of Mississippi, and the Options for Teaching series of the Modern Language Association of America. He is also the author of Black Sophists: A Critique of Demagoguery (Ph.D. Diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2013) and paired transcriptions of John Coltrane’s 1957 Carnegie Hall performances of Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy.” Professor Bertholf’s current book project (tentatively titled “The Black Charismatic: Demagoguery and the Politics of Affect”) has been supported by a residential faculty fellowship at Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities and by the Provost Fellowship (also at Wesleyan). He is currently an advisory board member at the Center for the Humanities and Co-Director of the inaugural Africana Studies Colloquium Series at Wesleyan.

Before joining the faculty at Wesleyan, Professor Bertholf was an Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Faculty Fellow in the Humanities Unbounded Initiative at Duke University and an assistant professor of English and Africana Studies at Davidson College, where he was elected to honorary membership in the Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society by the Delta Circles graduating class of 2019. Prior to that he was an assistant professor of Digital Rhetorics, Comparative Media, and Civic Culture in the Department of English at Clemson University, where he received the Award of Distinction from the National Scholars Programs graduating class of 2017 as well as the 2015-2016 Faculty Member of the Year Award from the former College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities.

Professor Bertholf was trained at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the first recipient of the Ph.D. in Africana Studies and the inaugural postdoctoral fellow of the Program on Race, Science, and Society; he was also an associate scholar of the Penn Humanities Forum (now Wolf Humanities Center) on Violence,” and a lecturer of cultural studies and criticism in the Critical Writing Program of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing. In addition, he has held previous appointments as a visiting assistant professor of Africana Studies in the former Department of History and Politics at Drexel University and as a preceptor for Cornel West in the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University. He has organized a number of academic symposia and colloquia, ranging in theme from “The Future of Hip-Hop” (2010) and “The Future of Race and Science” (2014) to “Slavery, Violence, and the Archive” (2019) and “Black Feminist Ecologies” (2021). Together with the students in his “Black Literary Theory” course, he organized a hybrid salon on “The Future of Black Studies” (2022).

During the 2024-2025 academic year, Professor Bertholf’s research will be supported by a residential faculty fellowship in Wesleyan’s College of the Environment Think Tank on “Agency.”


Recent Publications

“‘Faulkner wasn’t our people’: Faulkner’s ‘Negroes,’ the McJunkinses’ Faulkner, and Our Search for Greenfield Farm” in Faulkner’s Families (Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha series), edited by Jay Watson and James G. Thomas, Jr. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2023), 194-214.

“Teaching Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction” (co-authored with Marina Bilbija) in Reconstruction Beyond 150: Reassessing the New Birth of Freedom (A Nation Divided: Studies in the Civil War Era series), edited by Orville Vernon Burton and J. Brent Morris, foreword by Eric Foner (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2023), 222-242.

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Fri. 5:00-6:00 p.m. ET (Zoom) and by appointment on 5/3. (Please note: Student Hours will not be held on the following Fridays: 2/2, 3/1, 3/8 and 4/19.)

Course Assistants for AFAM 202-01 (Spring 2024): Arabella Katz (’24) and Ethan Barrett (’24).

Course Assistants for AFAM 202-01 (Spring 2022): Jada Reid (’22) and Eva Weintraub (’24).

Course Assistants for AFAM 101-01 (Fall 2021): Gissel Ramirez (’24) and Yohely Comprés (’24).


Senior (Honors) Thesis Tutorials 

Yohely Comprés ’24 (African American Studies Department and Latin American Studies Program, Fall 2023-Spring 2024; AFAM 409-13/AFAM 410-10). Tentative title: “‘All of us come from water’: Oceanic (im)possibilities and Black life-world-making in the Caribbean.”

Jo Harkless ’24 (College of Social Studies, Fall 2023-Spring 2024; CSS 409-37/CSS 410-70). Tentative title: “Difference and Neoliberalism: Toward a Black Feminist Theory of Political Economy.”

Gissel Ramirez ’24 (English Department, Fall 2023-Spring 2024; ENGL 409-20/ENGL 410-48). Tentative title: “Experiments in Contemporary Black Feminist Life-Writing: Interiority, Intimacy, Ordinariness.”

Arabella Katz ’24 (African American Studies and English Departments, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, Fall 2023-Spring 2024; FGSS 409-23/FGSS 410-24). Tentative title: “‘The Difficult Miracle’: Black Feminist Poetics as Praxis.”

Lilah Hixson ’22 (English Department, Fall 2021-Spring 2022; ENGL 409-52/ENGL 410-48). Title: Pictures Times Words: Toward a Grammar of Comics.

Darielle Matthews ’22 (College of Social Studies, Fall 2021-Spring 2022; CSS 409-85/CSS 410-70). Title: Enslaved Women and the Necropolitics of Quotidian Life.”

Non-Tutorial (Honors) Thesis Advising

Second Reader for Ethan Barrett ’24 (African American Studies Department, Fall 2023-Spring 2024). Tentative title: “‘The Envisioned Self Which Is a Free Self’: Theorizing the Grammars of Liberation in Post-Apartheid South Africa.”

Second Critic for Finn Kassell Osborne ’24 (Art Studio Program, Spring 2024). Tentative title: “Wissahickon Schist.”

Second Reader for Jada Reid ’22 (African American Studies and English Departments, Spring 2022). Title: how it feels: a study of race and ontology in the work of Zora Neale Hurston.

Senior Essay Tutorials

Brianna Johnson ’24 (African American Studies Department, Spring 2024; AFAM 404-08). Focus: Original rap album. Tues. 5:00-5:30 p.m. ET (Spring 2024).

Individual (Pre-Honors Thesis) Tutorials

Arabella Katz ’24 (African American Studies and English Departments, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, Spring 2023; AFAM 402-07). Title: “Black Feminist Poetics and Poetry as Black Feminist Praxis.

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Program Mentoring 

Yohely Comprés ’24 (African American Studies Department and Latin American Studies Program).

Gissel Ramirez ’24 (English Department).

Ethan Barrett ’24 (African American Studies Department). 

Summer Grants Program Advising

Jo Harkless ’24 (College of Social Studies). Davenport Study Grant, Summer 2023. 

Aurora Guecia ’25 (African American Studies Department and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program). Wesleyan Summer Grant, Summer 2023.

Graduate Placement 

Yohely Comprés ’24 - Combined Ph.D. Program in African American Studies and Spanish and Portuguese at Yale University; in addition to a University Fellowship, she was awarded the Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration Fellowship as well as the Whitney Humanities Center Fellowship in the Environmental Humanities.

Arabella Katz ’24 - Combined Ph.D. Program in African American Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University; she was awarded a University Fellowship.

Ethan Barrett ’24 - Ph.D. Program in English (Global Black Studies) at Duke University; he was awarded the James B. Duke Fellowship.

Africana Research Collective

Together with Yohely Comprés (’24), Ethan Barrett (’24), Ayer Richmond (’24), Edmund Jurado (’24), Finn Kassell Osborne (’24), Lexie Allen (’24) and Ahmed Almohamed (’24), Professor Bertholf organized a summer research experience focusing on the afterlife of slavery and anti-blackness in the Dominican Republic. In June 2022, student participants conducted ethnographic research across the following sites: the ruins of the Boca Nigua sugar plantation and San Cristóbal sugar mill of Diego Caballero; the former Santa Ana sugar mill at Engombe; the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo; and the Dajabón marketplace at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. (The cross-country trip from Santo Domingo to Dajabón included ethnographic research in cities as diverse as Moca, Punta Rucia, and La Vega.) Student participants also conducted interviews with Afro-Dominican graduates of the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, including activist Fernanda Berihuete and visual artist Laura María De Los Santos Prensa.