Robert Stepto appointed the Schiff Professor of English

Robert Stepto
Robert Stepto (Photo credit: Harold Shapiro)

Robert Stepto, newly named as the John M. Schiff Professor of English, focuses his research on the relation of literature to the visual arts and to folklore, literary history, and the “translation” of vernacular forms (for example, sermons or the blues) into written forms.

Stepto’s other interests include early African American narratives, American Renaissance authors, fin de siècle writers, the New Negro Renaissance (including its book art), 20th-century poetry (American and African American), American autobiography in all periods (beginning with captivity narratives), African American fiction from Chesnutt to Ellison, and the American “vernacular” landscape.

A graduate of Trinity College (Hartford), Stepto studied English and American literature at Stanford University, earning an M.A. and a Ph.D. He began his academic career as an assistant professor at Williams College, before coming to Yale in 1974. Since 1984, he has served as a full professor of the English, American studies, and African American studies faculties. His administrative positions have included director of graduate studies (DGS) for American studies; chair of theater studies; and chair, DGS, and director of undergraduate studies for African American studies.

Since 1990, Stepto has taught during the summers at the Bread Loaf School of English, where he previously has been the Robert Frost Professor of English and was an interim director.

The Yale professor is the author of three books: “A Home Elsewhere: Reading African American Classics in the Age of Obama,” “Blue as the Lake: A Personal Geography,” and “From Behind the Veil: A Study of Afro-American Narrative.” Stepto is co-editor of “The Harper American Literature” and “Chant of Saints: A Gathering of Afro-American Literature, Art, and Scholarship,” among other edited volumes. He is a widely published contributor to professional journals.

Stepto’s publication awards include citations for Notable American Essay on four separate occasions. His essay “Greyhound Kind of Mood” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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