Sam Sommers

Assistant Professor in Residence, English Department

Sam Sommers (she/her) is Assistant Professor in Residence in the Department of English at University of Connecticut. She teaches American Studies, African American Literature, American Literature, and first-year writing courses at the Waterbury campus. She earned her BA in English and American Studies from Wesleyan University and her PhD in English from UCLA. Her research interests include African American and American literatures to 1900, history of reading, critical race theory, theories of the subject, history of the book, print and manuscript cultures, queer theory, and media studies.

From 2018–2019 she was a President’s Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of English at The Ohio State University, and in 2017–2018 she was a fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She taught at UCLA, Georgia College & State University, and Auburn University prior to joining the UConn faculty.

Her book project, Reading in Talking Books suspends the assumption that to read is always to participate in a process of liberal self-integration. The project challenges Americanist theories by revealing the ways nineteenth-century U.S. racial formations scaffold our most persistent beliefs about the uses of reading. Through examinations of archival documents, scenes of reading from fiction, and autobiographical narratives, Reading in Talking Books asks what theories of reading could look like if we divested the value of literacy from the privilege of democratic participation. Invoking early African American writers’ use of the “talking book” trope the project seeks a maximalist definition of reading that accounts for manifold relations between people and texts.

Primary research for Reading in Talking Books has been supported by fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, The Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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