Back to top

Keith Leonard Associate Professor Literature

PhD, Stanford University
MA, UNC Chapel Hill
BA, English, Yale University

Languages Spoken
Keith D Leonard is the author of Fettered Genius: The African American Bardic Poet from Slavery to Civil Rights. His publications, presentations, and courses have revolved around his study of political consciousness in African American poetry and poetics and in hip-hop culture. His current interests include African Americans artists in Paris, jazz in African American culture, and the evolving innovations of Afrofuturism. He is currently working on a book project entitled Black Avant-Gardism that explores the role of African American writers' collectives in the artistic innovations, public profiles, and cultural impact of contemporary African American poets.
See Also
Literature Department Profile
For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.


Spring 2024

  • HNRS-050 Honors Supplement: Black to the Future

  • LIT-435 Adv Studies in African Am Lit: Black to the Future

Fall 2024

  • CORE-105 Complex Problems Seminar: Imagining the Good Life

  • LIT-340 Topics in 19th C Lit & Culture: Playing in the Dark

Partnerships & Affiliations

  • George Moses Horton Society for the Study of African American Poetry
    Member (1998-present)

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Selected Publications

  •  Fettered Genius: The African American Bardic Poet from Slavery to Civil Rights. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006
  • "Postmodern Soul: The Innovative Nostalgia of Thomas Sayers Ellis," Contemporary Literature 56.2 (Summer 2015): 340-371.  Winner of the L. S. Dembo prize for best article of the year.

  • “‘Which Me Will Survive’: Rethinking Identity, Reclaiming Audre Lorde.”                        Callaloo 35.3 (Summer 2012): 758-777   

  • "Yusef Komunyakaa's Blues: The Postmodern Music of Neon Vernacular" Callaloo 28.3 (Summer 2005): 825-849.
  • “Jazz in African American Literature” Blackwell’s Companion to African American Literature  (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010): 286-301.  
  • “We Wear the Mask: The Making of An African American Poet” Cambridge History of African American Literature (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011): 209-219.
  • “African American Women Poets and the Power of the Word.”  Cambridge Companion to African American Women's Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009): 168-186.  
  • “Verse Center: A Special Issue on Multi-Ethnic Poetics” Melus 35.2 June 2010 (co-editor)
  • "His Vagabond Heart" Poetry Foundation


Contribution to Poetry Foundation podcast on the career of Langston Hughes.February 19, 2007.

"The Public Life of African American Poets" for the Arlingron Public Library, April 29. 2021

Professional Presentations

  •  “Touching Dark Matter: Afrofuturism’s Body of Knowledge” at the History Seminar on Contemporary Science, Technology, and Culture, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, October 17, 2019
  • “‘Black Is…An’ Black Ain’t’: Twenty-First Century African American Poetics” at Duquesne University, October 3, 2018
  • “Experimental Blackness” at Theorizing Black Literature Now Conference at                    Rutgers University, February 12, 2016
  • "Blackness as Form, Blackness as Innovation," as Visiting Faculty at an NEH Institute, Don't Deny My Voice, National Endowment for the Humanities, University of Kansas. (July 29, 2015)

Work In Progress