Cherene Sherrard-Johnson

Position title: Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Fellow (2009-2010)

English, UW-Madison

Black and White portrait photography of Cherene Sherrard-Johnson

Dorothy West’s Paradise: A Biography of Class and Color

This project examines the life and writing of the enigmatic Harlem Renaissance writer in a way that enables our understanding of the particular intersecting geographies of class and race in American culture. My approach to West’s writing life rethinks the genre of feminist biography. I examine her public and private life in order to reveal what her multi-genre mythmaking tell us about class, gender and regional fault lines within African American culture over the twentieth century. By situating my analysis in a specific place, the black enclave on the island of Martha’s Vineyard that was West’s chosen retreat, I weave literary history and criticism into a social history of the island community of Oak Bluffs, which West figures as a both a separatist refuge and an interracial sanctuary. This book will be the first full-length biographical treatment of the author and will be published by Rutgers University Press.

Cherene Sherrard-Johnson is an Associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches nineteenth and twentieth century American and African American literature, cultural studies and feminist theory. She earned her B.A. in English and American Studies at U.C.L.A. and her doctorate in English at Cornell University. Her research is primarily focused on black female representation in mid-nineteenth to early twentieth American literature and visual culture. She is the author of the Portraits of the New Negro Woman: Visual and Literary Culture in the Harlem Renaissance (Rutgers University Press, 2007). Additional publications include numerous journal articles, short stories, and poems. Her most recent work includes the editing and annotating of a new edition of Jessie Redmon Fauset’s last novel Comedy: American Style (Rutgers University Press, 2009).