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Irvin Hunt

Associate Professor of English and African American Studies


With special attention to the relationship among activism, land, and art, Hunt's research and teaching focus on topics including African American literature and history, Black social movements, experimental communities, and the politics of Black humor. His work has appeared in American Quarterly, American Literature, American Literary History, Public Books, Dilettante Army, Post45, and elsewhere. His work has received support from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John W. Kluge Foundation, and the NAACP. His is currently working on three books, Stony the Road We Lost: Black Culture, Land Theft, and the Second Great Migration; Bitter Tea: Stories; and Hug Like a WavePoems. Hunt was the 2022-23 Helen Corley Petit Scholar for an extraordinary record of scholarship and teaching. He currently serves the college as the Deans's Fellow in Inclusive Excellence. 

Hunt is the author of Dreaming the Present: Time, Aesthetics, and the Black Cooperative Movement (UNC Press, 2022), which explores how Black artists and activist pioneered practices of mutual aid and fundamentally changed what a social movement can be.

  • Honorable mention for the William Scarborough Sanders Prize of the Modern Language Associations, a prize awarded annually to an outstanding scholarly study in Black American literature or culture.
  • Short listed for the Stone Book Award, which recognizes the most exemplary contemporary scholarship and writing within the field of African American history and culture.
  • Finalist for the Best New Book in African American History and Culture from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Research Interests

African American culture and history, cooperative economics, social movement theory, performance studies, humor studies, and affect studies.   



Ph.D., Columbia University (2014); M.A., University of California, Berkeley (2007); B.A., Morehouse College (2005).

Awards and Honors

Helen Corley Petit Scholar, 2022-23 

Finalist for the Elizabeth Nunez Short Fiction Prize for “Bitter Tea,” Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival, 2021

Multiracial Democracy Manuscript Award for Dreams of the Present, Campus Research Board, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2019: workshopped book with Fred Moten and Roderick Ferguson, New York, January 2020

Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship, 2017-18

Postdoctoral Fellowship in African American Literature, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, 2016-17 

John W. Kluge Fellow for a New Generation of Faculty Excellence, Columbia University, 2008


Courses Taught


“Mourning in Comic Time” (553)



"The Black Arts Movement" (455)

"Exploring Arts and Creativity" (FAA 110)

“The Postwar Era and Contemporary American Literature” (452)

“Introduction to the Study of Literature and Culture” (200)

“Black Literature in America” (150)

“Modern African American Literature” (260)

“Love and Sound: Writing about Literature” (360)

“Utopian Economies in African American Literature” (461)

 “The American Novel since 1914” (251)

“African American Literature from the Beginnings to 1915” (259)


Additional Campus Affiliations

Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory

Highlighted Publications


Dreaming the Present: Time, Aesthetics, and the Black Cooperative Movement (University of North Carolina Press, 2022)



“How Literature Understands Poverty: An Introduction,” co-authored with Kinohi Nishikawa, Clare Callahan, and Joseph Entin, Special Issue of American Literature (Winter 2022).

“This Bridge Called the System: An Interview with Stephanie Morningstar,” Dilettante Army (Fall 2021).

“Planned Failure: George Schuyler and the Young Negroes Cooperative Guild,” American Quarterly 72.4 (2020): 853-879.

“Necromance,” American Literary History 31.4 (2019): 829–839.

“The Hesitations of Speculative History,” Contemporaries at Post45 (February 2019).

“The Humor We Fear Most,” Contemporaries at Post45 (February 2019).

Get Out: Not An Invitation, But a Warning,” Public Books (May 2017).

“On Ava Duvernay,” Public Books (Feb 2016).

Saints on the Dollar,” Public Books (Jul 2014).

Everybody’s Protest Play?” Public Books (Jan 2014).



“Unco-Opted: Cooperative Economics as Counter Surveillance,” African American Literature: In Transition, 1940-50, Cambridge University Press (Spring 2022): 23,766 words.

“‘There Wont Be Inny Show Tonite’: Humoring the Returns of Scopic Violence in Suzan-Lori Parks’s Venus," History and Humor: British and American Perspectives, eds. Doris Lechner and Barbara Korte, Transcript Press, Germany (October 2013): 81-103.



“Bread and Salt in African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song, Caxtonian (April/May 2021): 8-9.

Review of The Ethics of Swagger and The Time Is Always NowAmerican Literature, 87 (Dec 2015): 622-24.