Jennie Lightweis-Goff’s teaching and scholarship challenge the centrality of time and periodization in literary studies. As a teacher, she engages with the full history of American literature, from the colonial period to the present, as well as urban studies, feminist theory, critical race theory, and film and visual studies. Her courses on UM’s branch campuses include seminars on subjects as various as travel writing, early American literature, film studies, Afro-Caribbean literature, Southern regional studies, and modernism. As a scholar, she operates on the notion that historical trauma scrambles time and shreds maps. Her writing focuses on concrete space – regions, cities, alleys, sidewalks, hotels, and houses – across centuries and overdetermined literary epochs.
Lightweis-Goff earned a Ph.D. in English and Graduate Certificates in both Gender Studies and Africana Studies from the University of Rochester. Her dissertation, Blood at the Root: Lynching as American Cultural Nucleus, won the SUNY Press Dissertation / First Book Prize in African-American Studies, and was published by SUNY Press in 2011. Her current project, Captive Cities: Urban Slavery in Four Movements, examines the constrained literary and visual archive of urban slavery in the South and beyond. On the way to completing a book on captive cities in the 19th century, she has written a series of meditations on modern and contemporary representations of the urban South by writers from John Berendt to James Baldwin, from DuBose Heyward to David Simon, from Margaret Mitchell to Jamaica Kincaid. Articles from these projects have appeared in American Literature, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, the minnesota review, and the LSU collection Small-Screen Souths.