Wendy Laura Belcher

Associate Professor, Department of Comparative Literature and Department for African American Studies
Phone: 
609-258-1683
Email Address: 
wbelcher@princeton.edu
Office Location: 
105 East Pyne

Periods: early modern British and African literature

Languages: Gəˁəz, Amharic, French, Hausa, Anglophone

Research interests: African language literature, African literature in English; African discourse and Western literature; postcolonial criticism 

Office Hours Spring 2017:  Monday 4:30 - 6:00 PM please use WASS to make appointments

Professor Wendy Laura Belcher is an associate professor of African literature with a joint appointment in the Princeton University Department of Comparative Literature and the Department for African American Studies. Working at the intersection of diaspora, postcolonial, and eighteenth-century studies, she has a special interest in the literatures of Ethiopia and Ghana and a multi-book comparative project demonstrating how African thought has animated British and European canonical literature. This includes the widely reviewed finalist for the Bethwell A. Ogot Award for best book on East Africa: Abyssinia’s Samuel Johnson: Ethiopian Thought in the Making of an English Author (Oxford, May 2012), which theorizes the discursive possession of English authors and texts. The next part of the project is in progress, a book titled The Black Queen of Sheba: A Global History of an African Idea, about the circulation of Ethiopian thought in Europe from 1000 to 2000. 

She is now working to bring attention to early African literature (written between 1300 and 1900), particularly that in African languages, through her research and translation. For instance, she is the co-translator with Michael Kleiner of perhaps the first book-length biography of an African woman, originally written in Gəˁəz (classical Ethiopic), the The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman (Princeton University Press, 2015), for which she received the Fulbright US Scholars Award. She and Kleiner also received the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women (SSEMW) award for the best Scholarly Edition in Translation of 2015. She is now working with Kleiner to translate the fourteenth-century Ethiopian text the Kebra Nagast (Kəbrä Nägäśt, The Glory of the Kings), a retelling of the story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. For many years, she has hosted a seminar on African language literature at the America Comparative Literature Association conference or the Modern Language Association conference. These scholarly interests emerge from her life experiences growing up in East and West Africa, where she became fascinated with the richness of Ghanaian and Ethiopian intellectual traditions. Her teaching focuses on how non-Western literature has participated in a global traffic in invention, pairing texts across national and continental boundaries in order to debunk stereotypes of Africans as peoples without history, texts, or influence until the 1950s. Previous books included the best-seller Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success, which has helped thousands to publish their important work and been cited in over 100 publications, and the award-winning Honey from the Lion: An African Journey (Dutton, 1988). Before becoming a professor, she worked for eleven years as the director of a small academic press with several book series. 

Prof. Belcher is interested in working with graduate students whose research interests overlap with her own, including African language literature (especially that in Gəˁəz, Amharic, Hausa), Anglophone African literature, early African literature, African film, African women authors, history of the African book, African manuscript cultures, African female saints, and queer African studies; as well as race and gender in eighteenth-century English literature, comparative African and European studies, postcolonial literature, Chicana/o literature, African American literature, comparative hagiographies, gender and sexuality, memoir, indirection and censorship, travel literature, manuscript studies, prison literature, intellectual autobiography, and supernatural monsters.