Wendy Laura Belcher
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 2008
Associate Professor, Department of Comparative Literature
105 East Pyne
Professor Wendy Laura Belcher is an associate professor of African literature with a joint appointment in the Princeton University Department of Comparative Literature and the Center for African American Studies. Working at the intersection of diaspora, postcolonial, and eighteenth-century studies, she has a special interest in the literatures of Ethiopia and Ghana and a multi-book comparative project demonstrating how African thought has animated British and European canonical literature. This includes the widely reviewed book that was a finalist for the Bethwell A. Ogot Award for best book on East Africa: Abyssinia’s Samuel Johnson: Ethiopian Thought in the Making of an English Author (Oxford, May 2012), which theorizes the discursive possession of English authors and texts. The next part of the project is in progress, a book titled The Black Queen of Sheba: A Global History of an African Idea, about the circulation of Ethiopian thought in Europe from 1000 to 2000.
She is now working to bring attention to early African literature (written between 1300 and 1900), particularly that in African languages, through her research and translation. For instance, she is the co-translator with Michael Kleiner of perhaps the first book-length biography of an African woman, originally written in Gəˁəz (classical Ethiopic), the forthcoming The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Translation of a Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an African Woman (Princeton University Press 2015), for which she received the Fulbright US Scholars Award. Every year she hosts a seminar on African language literature at the America Comparative Literature Association conference. These scholarly interests emerge from her life experiences growing up in East and West Africa, where she became fascinated with the richness of Ghanaian and Ethiopian intellectual traditions. Her teaching focuses on how non-Western literature has participated in a global traffic in invention, pairing texts across national and continental boundaries in order to debunk stereotypes of Africans as peoples without history, texts, or influence until the 1950s. Previous books included the best-seller Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success, which has helped thousands to publish their important work and been cited in over 70 publications, and the award-winning Honey from the Lion: An African Journey (Dutton, 1988). Before becoming a professor, she worked for eleven years as the director of a small academic press with several book series.
The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Translation of a Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an African Woman, with Michael Kleiner (Princeton University Press 2015).
- Abyssinia’s Samuel Johnson: Ethiopian Thought in the Making of an English Author (Oxford, 2012).
- Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (Sage, 2009). Translated into Spanish, simplified Chinese, and traditional Chinese.
- Honey from the Lion: An African Journey (E. P. Dutton, 1988). Winner of Washington State Governor’s Writers Award; Finalist in the Martha Albrand/PEN Society Award for first book of nonfiction; translated into French by l’Ecole des Loisirs as Le Miel du Lion.
- “Sisters Debating the Jesuits: The Role of African Women in Defeating Portuguese Proto-Colonialism in Seventeenth-Century Abyssinia.” Northeast African Studies 13, no.1 (Spring 2013).
- “From Sheba They Come: Medieval Ethiopian Myth, U.S. Newspapers, and Modern American Narrative.” Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters 33, no. 2 (Spring 2010): 239-257.
- "Consuming Subjects: Theorizing New Models of Agency For Literary Criticism in African Studies.” Comparative Literature Studies 46, no. 2 (Spring 2009): 213-232.
- “Indirect Resistance: Rhetorical Strategies for Evading Power in Colonial French West African Novels by Camara Laye, Ferdinand Oyono, and Sembene Ousmane.” LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory 18, no. 1 (spring 2007): 65-87.
Introduction to Background and Research:
More about Professor Belcher:
- Prof. Belcher's full-text publications
- Prof. Belcher's research on the life of an Ethiopian female saint (Discovery Magazine)
- Prof. Belcher's research on early modern Ethiopian texts (Princeton Weekly)
- Prof. Belcher’s research on African literature (CAAS Faculty Spotlight)
- Prof. Belcher's teaching of Growing Up Global: Novels and Memoirs of Transnational Childhoods Course (Princeton Weekly)
- Prof. Belcher's teaching of Model Memoirs: The Life Stories of International Fashion Models Course (Jezebel)
- Prof. Belcher's radio interview on African literature (CBC Audio)
- Prof. Belcher's talk on writing journal articles for publication (Video)