Cord J. Whitaker
B.A., Yale University; M.A., Duke University; Ph.D., Duke University
My research and teaching interests in the English literature and culture of the late Middle Ages, especially the twelfth through fifteenth centuries, Chaucer, and late medieval romance, were fostered during my undergraduate studies at Yale University and my doctoral studies at Duke University. My first book, currently in progress and tentatively titled Black Metaphors: Race, Religion, and Rhetoric in the Literature of the Late Middle Ages, argues that medieval English literature offers ample evidence that the late Middle Ages was a critical moment in the development of modern race. The book examines the uses of black figures as vexing metaphors for non-Christian and Christian identity, for difference and sameness, and for sin and salvation. Black Metaphors asserts that late medieval race-thinking demonstrates a profound flexibility that ought to inform how we understand modernity’s contrasting focus on the fixity of racial categories. Black Metaphors also considers the crucial role that medieval understandings of classical rhetoric played in the deployment of black figures as metaphors and the subsequent development of race. Furthermore, my work on medieval race-thinking has led me to consider uses of the Middle Ages in modern racial politics, and I am beginning work on a second project that explores Harlem Renaissance intellectuals’ strategic engagements with the Middle Ages for their early twentieth-century racial and political ends.
My teaching goes hand in hand with my research, and my courses focus on Chaucer’s language, poetics, and narratives; late medieval romance, chivalry, violence, and religious conflict; religious conversion and its implications for race-thinking; and the afterlives of the Middle Ages in modernity.