Assistant Professor of English:
Phone: +1 401 863 3739
Radiclani Clytus's research and teaching interests include nineteenth- and twentieth-century (African) American literature and visual culture, history of the book, and literary theory.
Clytus is an Assistant Professor of English, specializing in nineteenth-century (African) American cultural productions. He has received fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, New-York Historical Society, and Library Company of Philadelphia. He is the editor of Blue Notes: Essays, Interviews, and Commentaries (University of Michigan, 2000), a compilation of prose works by Yusef Komunyakaa, and is the author of articles on nineteenth-century circum-Atlantic visual culture. His forthcoming book, Envisioning Slavery: American Abolitionism and the Primacy of the Visual, examines the ocularcentric roots of American anti-slavery rhetoric.
My current book project, Envisioning Slavery: American Abolitionism and the Primacy of the Visual, is an interdisciplinary investigation into why American evangelical abolitionism relied so readily on visual media. My manuscript looks both at and beyond the iconography of the printed page in order to reveal how enlightenment era sensibilities such as Adam Smith's concept of spectatorial sympathy and the West's scientific regard for empirical observation helped to facilitate the American Anti-Slavery Society's (AASS) vested interest in pictorial propaganda. Through a consideration of the AASS's 1835 pamphlet campaign and a variety of related texts that touch upon the subject of American slavery, including transatlantic travel narratives, antislavery lectures, illustrated ephemera and moving panoramas, I examine those ideological and material conditions which contributed to the AASS's presumption that "the eye" was indeed "an avenue to the nation's heart and conscience." I especially argue that abolitionists of the AASS readily exploited the metaphysics of vision common to many discourses throughout the period.
My second project, tentatively titled Old Media New Artists: Close Encounters With Black Modernity, proposes an alternative account of black avant-garde poetics within literature, music, and the visual arts. I argue that, from "Negro" to "Black" to "African American," black cultural productions have been unremittingly retrofitted to accommodate the social and political consensus necessitated by racial naming. But while this system of classification has enabled the institutional stature of black arts and letters, I also posit that it has impeded our critical apprehension of those artists for whom race functions as a speculative trope. To this end, Old Media New Artists will examine the ways in which black moderns (such as William J. Wilson, Jean Toomer, Arna Bontemps, Norman Mailer, James Badwin, David Henry Hwang, Harryette Mullen, Terrance Hayes, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Rammellzee, Kara Walker, and Jason Moran) establish new epistemic regimes of knowing that rely at once on the recognition and disavowal of racial meaning.
As a multi-media supplement to Old Media New Artists I am co-directing a feature-length documentary, titled Grammar, about jazz pianist and MacArthur Award winner Jason Moran. Since January 2011, filmmaker Gregg Conde and I have been documenting Moran's rehearsals and performances in order to reveal the ways in which the inherently improvisational and amorphous nature of jazz music configures the language of creative and artistic expression. Because much of Moran's ongoing oeuvre blurs the boundaries between jazz, rap, and performance art, our documentary will not only explain how his eclectic style of playing is informed by his coming of age during the emergence of electro music, 80's funk, house, M-Base, and the culture of hip hop but it will also demonstrate how Moran's hybrid sense of musicality portends a foundational shift in how we define jazz music. Coincidentally, Grammar purports that jazz never truly ceased to be America's most popular art form. Rather, like its kindred genres soul and funk, it merely migrated into the genetic structure of hip hop music through the inventive practices of sampling and beat making.
Center for the Humanities at Tufts Faculty Fellow, Fall 2011 - Spring 2012
Jay and Deborah Last Fellowship for Research on American Art, and Visual Culture, American Antiquarian Society, Summer 2009.
FRAC Summer Research Fellowship, Tufts University, Summer 2008.
Neubauer Faculty Fellow Tufts University, Fall 2007 - Spring 2009.
Bernard and Irene Schwartz Postdoctoral Fellowship, New-York Historical Society and The New School's Eugene Lang College, 2006 - 2007.
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Graduate Summer Fellowship, 2002.
Yale Center for International and Area Studies Henry Hart Rice Research Fellow, 2001 - 2002.
Ford Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellowship, 2000.
Yale Center for International and Area Studies Pre-Dissertation Mini-Grant, Summer 2000.
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, Library Company of Philadelphia, Summer 2000.
John W. Blassingame Dissertation Research Fellowship, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Fall 2000.
John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African-American Documentation Archival Award, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Summer 2000.
Yale University British Art Center Summer Travel Grant, Summer 1999.
African American Studies Student Research and Travel Award, Yale University, Summer 1999.
Modern Language Association
American Studies Association
C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists
Unstable Subjects: Race and Meaning in Contemporary African American Literature
Old Media New Artists: Innovation and Contingency in African American Culture
Slavery's Optic Glass: The First Century of African American Literature
Slackers and Hipsters: Urban Fictions, 1850-Present