The department, founded in 2010 under the direction of associate professor and chair Edmund Gordon, was the first doctoral program in black studies in the southern U.S.
Brown’s dissertation, “Hush Somebody’s Calling My Name: The Haint Elegy and Black Women’s Poetry,” explored black female poets’ use of grief and memory as devices to reconstruct cultural histories and subjectivity. It was inspired in part by research she conducted for her 2015 chapbook, Dear Girl: A Reckoning, which won the 2014 Gold Line Press poetry chapbook competition.
Drea Brown is the first Black Studies Ph.D. graduate from UT Austin.
Her research imagined black women as categorically marginal figures, who appear in poetry as “the one haunted and the thing haunting,” which Brown refers to as the “haint.” By reckoning with the haints in these poems, black women rework the genre of elegy, challenging canonical ideas about who lives and who dies, who mourns and who remembers, Brown says.
“Because we are haunted by a racial and sexualized past that continues to make itself known in the present, haunting is often an undergirding structure in our poetry, which makes a distinctive contribution to the genre of elegy, the poetry of loss and mourning,” says Brown. “I am entranced by form and aesthetic, poetry as a vehicle of memory and recovery, and the ways in which black women in particular navigate between these lines.”