NIcholas Brown

Associate Professor of African American Studies and English


2000 P.h.D Program in Literature, Duke University
1993 B.A. Modern Thought and Literature, Stanford University

Research Interests

Nicholas Brown teaches African literature as well as British literature and critical theory. His research interests include Marxism, the history of aesthetics, Lusophone literature, and music studies. His first book, Utopian Generations: The Political Horizon of Twentieth-Century Literature (Princeton, 2005), examines the relationship between African literature and European modernism, and the relationship of each to continuing crises in the global economic system. 
His new book, Autonomy: The Social Ontology of Art Under Capitalism (forthcoming from Duke University Press), asserts the resumption of the modernist sequence — not always in the expected places — in the era after postmodernism.

For an excerpt of Utopian Generations, please click on the image below:




Whoever hasn’t yet arrived at the clear realization that there might
be a greatness existing entirely outside his own sphere and for which he might have absolutely no feeling; whoever hasn’t at least felt ob- scure intimations concerning the approximate location of this greatness in the geography of the human spirit: that person either has no genius in his own sphere, or else he hasn’t been educated yet to the niveau of the classic.

—Friedrich Schlegel, Critical Fragment 36 Modernism and African Literature

This book argues for establishing the interpretive horizon of twentieth-century literature at capitalism’s internal limit. In the classical Marxian conception this limit is the rift between capital and labor, but this rift knows many displacements, the most important of which is the division of the globe between wealthy nations and a much larger and poorer economic periphery. The literary texts primarily considered here come from each side of this divide: British modernism between the world wars, and African literature during the period of the national indepen- dence struggles. The following pages will insist that neither of these two litera- tures—each produced in a period of extraordinary political possibility—can be understood on its own; rather, the full meaning of each only emerges in relation to the other and to the rift, both internal and external, which they each try in different ways to represent.

But what does British modernism have to do with African literature? 

Brown Headshot

Contact Info

Office: UH 1223
Phone: (312) 996-4694
Fax: (312) 996-5799
Curriculum Vitae