Stephanie Newell appointed George M. Bodman Professor of English

Stephanie Newell’s research focuses on media audiences in colonial West Africa and creative writing, with a focus on local print cultures.
Stephanie Newell
Stephanie Newell

Stephanie Newell, whose research focuses on media audiences in colonial West Africa and creative writing, with a focus on local print cultures, has been appointed the George M. Bodman Professor of English, effective July 1.

She is a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the Department of English.

A Yale faculty member since 2015, Newell previously held a faculty appointment at the University of Sussex. In her pathbreaking work, she has traced the dissemination of creative writing in West Africa through locally published newspapers, pamphlets, novels, and periodicals. Through this research, she has made a field-defining contribution to the study of literature, literacy, and print culture by showing how the mass media became a site of local creativity in colonial-era West African communities.

Across six monographs, Newell has illuminated histories of mass-media audiences in colonial West Africa. “Ghanaian Popular Fiction: ‘Thrilling Discoveries in Conjugal Life’” (Ohio University Press, 2000), reveals the undocumented writing, publishing, and reading of pamphlets and paperbacks that exist outside of mainstream mass-production in Ghana. “Literary Culture in Colonial Ghana” (Indiana University Press, 2002) explores how Ghanaians used literacy to carve out new cultural, social, and economic spaces for themselves under colonialism. In “West African Literatures: Ways of Reading” (Oxford University Press, 2006), Newell casts a broad net, and places literature from across the region in historical and political context. “The Forger’s Tale: the Search for Odeziaku” (Ohio University Press, 2006) looks to the work of English writer John Moray Stuart-Young to illuminate West African cultural production and debates about sexuality and ethics in the colonial period, while “The Power to Name: A History of Anonymity in Colonial West Africa” (Ohio University Press, 2013) offers an innovative account of anonymous and pseudonymous writing practices in African-owned newspapers between the 1880s and the 1940s, and the rise of celebrity journalism in the period of anticolonial nationalism. Newell’s most recent book, “Histories of Dirt: Media and Urban Life in Colonial and Postcolonial Lagos” (Duke University Press, 2020), reveals how attitudes about cleanliness and contagion circulated in the media and shaped colonial practices in Lagos. In addition to these field-defining books, Newell has published dozens of articles in peer-reviewed journals, is a sought-after editor of African fiction who has contributed critical commentary to editions of literary texts, and has edited or co-edited multiple journal volumes and essay collections.

For this work, Newell has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Anglia Ruskin University and research grants from the Leverhulme Trust, the European Research Council, and the British Academy. The African Literature Association has honored her for her Outstanding Record of Service, a testament to her influence in the field. Newell holds an appointment as Professor Extraordinaire at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She is also co-founder of the Connect Africa Research Network and editor of the African Articulations book series. Newell served as president of the African Studies Association of the UK and has served on the Executive Committee of the African Literature Association, as well as on the editorial boards of numerous leading journals in postcolonial studies, literary studies, and African studies.

At Yale, Newell plays an integral role in fostering scholarship in African studies. Currently, she is the interim chair of the Council on African Studies at the MacMillan Center, and she has organized numerous symposia and speaker series that have strengthened Yale’s standing in the field of African Studies. An exemplary university citizen, she serves on the Executive Committee of the Whitney Humanities Center, and was a member of the Humanities Area Committee and Tenure Appointments Committee from 2016 to 2018. Newell is a dedicated teacher and mentor. In 2022 she was awarded the Sidonie Miskimin Clauss Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities. Her courses include surveys of African and postcolonial literatures, graduate and undergraduate courses on literature and apartheid, print and literary cultures, urban cultures, and other topics.

Newell earned her Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham, a master’s degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies, and a bachelor’s degree from Anglia Ruskin University.

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