Tessa Roynon

Tessa Roynon is a specialist in modern North American literature, particularly African American literature, in Anglophone literature of the black diaspora, and in Classical Reception studies. Her research centres on the interactions between all of these.

She is currently writing a book entitled The Classical Tradition in Modern American Fiction, which is forthcoming with Edinburgh University Press. This is a study of the ways in which modern American novelists ranging from Willa Cather and William Faulkner to Toni Cade Bambara and Percival Everett reference the cultures of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, for example in their representations of racial and/or ethnic politics and identities.

She was the co-director of the International Ralph Ellison Symposium (RAI and St Anne’s, University of Oxford, September 28-30th 2017). Following this conference she is co-editing the essay collection, Global Ralph Ellison, with Marc C. Conner. She is contributing an essay on Ralph Ellison's engagement with Ovid (particularly in the posthumous publication, Three Days Before the Shooting . . .)  to this collection. The essay builds her prior work on Ellison's intellectual formation, drawing extensively on archival material including the author's personal book collection.

She is co-editor of the acclaimed interdisciplinary essay collection, African Athena: New Agendas (OUP 2011, with Daniel Orrells and Gurminder Bhambra). In a new collaboration with Daniel Orrells, she is co-editing a special issue of The International Journal of the Classical Tradition on the theme of 'Ovid and Identity in the Twenty-first Century'. This volume arose from the symposium that Daniel and she co-directed in November 2014: 'Ovid and Postmodernism: continuity and change', held at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. She has contributed a chapter on representations of race in E.L. Doctorow and Jeffrey Eugenides to this collection. 

She is the author of two books on Toni Morrison: The Cambridge Introduction to Toni Morrison (CUP 2012), and the monograph, Toni Morrison and the Classical Tradition (OUP 2013), which was awarded the Toni Morrison Society Book Prize for best single-authored book in 2015.  She has published numerous articles and book chapters on this author, including in the Journal of American Studies and African American Review.

She has given several invited lectures on Morrison in the USA: these include at the University of Michigan (March 2017); at Oberlin College (September 2016); at Washington and Lee University (March 2013) and at Princeton University (March 2012). In January 2016 she was a guest on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, in which she participated in a discussion on Toni Morrison, Beloved, and contemporary black British women's writing. 

She has also written on Ralph Ellison's intellectual formation in the 1940s; and on the classical tradition in Bernardine Evaristo, Robin Coste Lewis and Marlene NourbeSe Philip. She is completing an essay on race and civil rights in Marilynne Robinson's work. 

At the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights she convenes the Fiction and Human Rights Network, which she co-founded at TORCH in 2015. In 2016-17 she was the co-ordinator of the TORCH Research Programme, Race and Resistance Across Borders in the Long Twentieth Century, and continues to serve on its steering group. She is Executive Editor of the affiliated book series, Race and Resistance Across Borders, at Peter Lang, which she co-founded in 2014. She founded the Race and Resistance Programme's blog, 'Voices Across Borders', in 2014, and served as its editor until July 2017. 

For a list of Tessa’s selected publications and details of her teaching areas please see her English Faculty webpage:




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