Brian Russell Roberts

Brian Russell Roberts

Assistant Professor, English

4153 JFSB


Curriculum Vitae


Office Hours
Tuesday and Thursday 1:30-3:00 or by appointment


After growing up in Hawai’i, Indonesia, and Tennessee, Brian Roberts received a PhD in English from the University of Virginia in 2008. His scholarship and teaching focus on American Studies, African American and black diasporan literature and culture, modernism/modernity, archipelagic studies, and literature and diplomacy. His first book Artistic Ambassadors : Literary and International Representation of the New Negro Era (University of Virginia Press, 2013)–examines the literary and diplomatic performances of African American writers who traveled as US diplomats during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Tracing the interrelated spheres of racial, aesthetic, and international representation, Artistic Ambassadors brings the literary and diplomatic dossiers of famous figures such as Frederick Douglass and James Weldon Johnson into dialogue with the work of lesser-known black writer-diplomats of the New Negro era. The project further demonstrates how historical access to New Negro literary and cultural investments in official US diplomacy is crucial to understanding quasi-diplomatic moments in African American and black diasporan cultural history, including W. E. B. Du Bois and Ida Gibbs Hunt’s orchestration of the Pan-African Congress and the Indonesian travels of Richard Wright for the Bandung Conference or Asian-African Conference. An article version of a chapter from Artistic Ambassadors received the MLA’s Darwin T. Turner Award for best article of the year in African American Review.

Professor Roberts has begun a second book, tentatively titled “American Archipelago: Modernism, Blackness, and the Islands of the Sea,” which draws on the writings of authors including Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Florence Frisbie, Carlos Bulosan, Harriet Monroe, Wallace Thurman, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Carson McCullers to trace the ways in which island-space and American blackness intersected during late colonial modernity to produce an archipelago of interrelated modernisms spanning from London to Jakarta and from New York to Port-au-Prince.


PhD, U of Virginia, 2008


Modernism; African American and black diasporan literature and culture; American studies; archipelagic studies; literature and diplomacy