artist info University of Washington

Sonnet Retman

Associate Professor

Adjunct Associate Professor, Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
Adjunct Associate Professor, English

Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 1997


A514 Padelford Hall
(206) 543-0470

Professional Biography

Sonnet Retman is a literary scholar who works on African American literature and culture. Her work explores how narrative produces race as it intersects with constructions of gender, sexuality and class. She is particularly interested in analyzing the meanings of racial representations as they bear on social relations of power. Her research and teaching examines a variety of cultural texts—including literary, cinematic and musical works—drawing upon an interdisciplinary methodology that culls from critical race studies, legal studies, feminist theory, cultural history, anthropology and literary criticism and theory. In her first book, Real Folks: Race and Genre in the Great Depression (Duke 2011), she investigates the racialized manufacture and contestation of the folk in the conjoined genres of documentary and satire in the 1930s. She is presently working on a book about the literary ethnographies of the 1940s that registered the social effects of racial segregation to produce a counter history of the nation and its claims of democracy at the start of WWII.

Selected Publications

Real Folks: Race and Genre in the Great Depression, Duke University Press, 2011.

“The Depression and the Novel.” The Oxford History of the Novel in English. Volume 6: The American Novel, 1870-1940. Edited by Priscilla Wald and Michael A. Elliott. Forthcoming with Oxford University Press, 2012.

"Langston Hughes's 'Rejuvenation Through Joy': Passing, Racial Performance and the Marketplace." African American Review Vol. 45, No. 1 (Spring 2012): forthcoming

Black No More: George Schuyler and Racial Capitalism,” Comparative Racialization, edited by Patricia Yaeger. Special issue of PMLA Journal (October 2008): 1448-1464

Between Rock and a Hard Place: Narrating Nona Hendryx’s Inscrutable Career.” Recall and Response: Black Women Performers and the Mapping of Memory, co-edited by Jayna Brown and Tavia Nyong’o. Special issue of Women and Performance: a journal of feminist theory, Vol.16, No. 1, March 2006, 107-18.

"‘Nothing was Lost in the Masquerade’: The Protean Performance of Genre and Identity in Charles Johnson's Oxherding Tale." African-American Review Vol. 33, No. 3 (Fall 1999): 417-37.

"'Something more than a catalogue of celluloid rectangles in a government storehouse': Roy Stryker's FSA Collection." Museum Anthropology Vol. 20, No. 2 (Fall 1996): 49-66.

Teaching and Research Interests

African-American literature and culture; feminist and critical race theory; performance studies; popular music and film studies.


AFRAM 101 -- Introduction to African American Studies
AFRAM 214 -- Survey of African American Literature
AFRAM 220 -- African American Film Studies
AFRAM 318 -- Black Literary Genres
AFRAM 337 -- Music and Social Change in the Sixties Era
AFRAM 340 -- The Harlem Renaissance: A Literary Study
AFRAM 498 -- Special Topics in African American Studies

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