Autumn Womack specializes in late 19th- and early 20th-century African-American literary culture, with a specific interest in the intersection of literature, visual technologies, and archival practice. At Princeton, she teaches classes on 19th and 20th-century African-American literature and the history of race and media. In keeping with her investment in archival research, her course “Toni Morrison and the Ethics of Reading” makes extensive use of the Toni Morrison Papers, housed at Princeton University Library.
Professor Womack is the author of The Matter of Black Living: The Aesthetic Experiment of Racial Data, 1880-1930 (The University of Chicago Press, 2022), which was awarded the 2022 the Modern Language Association’s William Sanders Scarborough Prize and shortlisted for the Modernist Studies Association’s First Book Prize. The Matter of Black Living explores the intimate relationship between black life, aesthetics, and emergent data regimes at the turn of the twentieth century. She is also the editor of Norton Library’s edition of Charles Chesnutt’s 1901 novel The Marrow of Tradition (Norton, 2023).
In 2023, Professor Womack led the curatorial team for the critically acclaimed archival exhibition, Toni Morrison: Sites of Memory, which used never-seen archival objects from the Toni Morrison Papers to shed new light on Morrison’s creative process. Her curatorial and archival work has engendered two new projects: Her next book, The Wanderer, which investigates Toni Morrison’s creative process and practice through an exploration of her archive, is forthcoming from Knopf (2025). Additionally, Professor Womack is collaborating with Professor Kinohi Nishikawa on a volume of essays that reflect on the relationship between Toni Morrison and Black archival practice.
Professor Womack’s research and writing has been published in journals such as Black Camera: An International Film Journal, American Literary History, Women and Performance, J19: A Journal of 19th Century Americanists, The Paris Review of Books, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement as well as numerous edited volumes. Her recent writing attends to the relationship between financialization, speculation, and aesthetics in the work of Charles Chesnutt and W.E.B. Du Bois.