Gene Andrew Jarrett is a scholar, professor, and university administrator. Presently, he is Dean of the Faculty and the William S. Tod Professor of English at Princeton University.
Before his current role at Princeton, Jarrett was the Seryl Kushner Dean of the College of Arts and Science and Professor of English at New York University from 2017 to 2021. Prior to that, he worked at Boston University, where he was a professor jointly appointed in the Department of English and the Program in African American Studies; he also served as Chair of the English Department from 2011 to 2014 and Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Humanities from 2014 to 2017. He began his academic career as an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park; he worked there from 2002 to 2007.
Jarrett specializes in African American literary history from the eighteenth century to the present; U.S. literary history between the Civil War and World War II; race, ethnic, and cultural studies; and theories of literature, aesthetics, and intellectual historiography. His book Representing the Race: A New Political History of African American Literature (NYU Press, 2011) tackles the question: “What is the political value of African American literature?” He traces the genealogy of this topic to produce an innovative political history of African American pamphlets, autobiographies, cultural criticism, poems, short stories, and novels. The critical methods and concepts of Representing the Race build on his first book, Deans and Truants: Race and Realism in African American Literature (U Penn Press, 2007), which exposes the punitive definitions of race and realism that have canonized supposedly authentic and political representations of African American experiences since the late nineteenth century. Both Representing the Race and Deans and Truants have spawned essays published in such leading journals as PMLA, American Literary History, Early American Literature, NOVEL, and African American Review, among others.
His third authored book, Paul Laurence Dunbar: The Life and Times of a Caged Bird, a comprehensive biography of Paul Laurence Dunbar, was published by Princeton University Press in 2022, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the poet’s birth. Widely acclaimed, Paul Laurence Dunbar was named a New Yorker Best Book of the Year, a Book Riot Best Biography of the Year, and a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award. A major poet, Dunbar was one of the first African American writers to garner international recognition in the wake of emancipation. In this definitive biography, the first full-scale life of Dunbar in half a century, Jarrett offers a revelatory account of a writer whose Gilded Age celebrity as the “poet laureate of his race” hid the private struggles of a man who, in the words of his famous poem, felt like a “caged bird” that sings.
The research Jarrett conducted for his monographs inspired him to edit eight books of African American literature and literary criticism. Above all, the two-volume Wiley-Blackwell Anthology of African American Literature (2014) is a comprehensive collection of literature authored by New World Africans and African Americans from the eighteenth century until the present. Published in two volumes, it is the first such anthology to be fundamentally conceived for both classroom and online education in the twenty-first century. In 2014 he also became founding Editor-in-Chief of the African American Studies module of Oxford Bibliographies Online, and in 2021 founding Senior Editor of Oxford Research Encyclopedia in African American Literature and Culture, both published by Oxford University Press.
Jarrett is also the editor of A Companion to African American Literature (2012); The Collected Novels of Paul Laurence Dunbar (2009), co-edited with Herbert Woodward Martin and Ronald Primeau; The New Negro: Readings on Race, Representation, and African American Culture (2007), co-edited with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; A Long Way from Home, by Claude McKay (2007); African American Literature beyond Race: An Alternative Reader (2006); and The Complete Stories of Paul Laurence Dunbar (2005), co-edited with Thomas Lewis Morgan.
For Jarrett’s scholarly work, he has won awards and distinguished fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the American Council of Learned Societies. Born and raised in New York City, Jarrett earned his AB in English from Princeton University and his AM and PhD in English from Brown University.
For more information about Jarrett’s life and work, please visit his personal webpage.