Dr Rachel van Duyvenbode


Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA


My research interests lie at the interface of American Literature, critical whiteness studies and theories of race, gender and sexuality.

I came to The University of Sheffield in 1996 to read American Studies and completed my PhD in 2004. My PhD explored representations of white women in a range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century works by African American women writers.

Whilst writing my PhD, I received a scholarship to attend the School of Criticism and Theory (SCT) at Cornell University and worked with Professor Manthia Diawara on a project entitled `Cultural Studies and the Black Diaspora.´ In 2003, I was awarded a fellowship to attend the Salzburg Seminar in Contemporary American Literature.

In September 2004, I joined the School of English after a previous position as an Associate Lecturer in English Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University (2003-2004).


I have published in The Journal of American Studies, co-edited a special edition of U.S. Studies Online, written essays for Year´s Work in English Studies and book reviews for peer-reviewed journals. Currently, I am working on two main projects: a monograph entitled Literary Whiteness: Reading Whiteness Critically in African American Literature and Theory; and a project on Teaching Whiteness in Higher Educational Contexts bringing together my teaching experience with developments in the field of critical race studies.

As a University Teacher, I am committed to excellence in teaching and learning and I am currently preparing work for publication about some of the pedagogical innovations that I have been developing such as the use of autoethnography as an assessment method and my experience of using SEED techniques (see below) like Serial Testimony for enabling students to talk about race and privilege in the classroom.

I have presented my work at Higher Education Academy events and conferences and in 2014 I was nominated for the Excellence in Teaching prize at the Students Union Annual Academic Awards.

In July 2014, I attended the New Leaders Training Programme at the National SEED Project: Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity in California, USA. In 2014-2015, I will lead the first UK SEED Project here at the University of Sheffield. The workshops will provide a unique opportunity for sustained reflection and discussion of barriers to diversity, equality and inclusion in our classrooms, curriculum and institutional policies and practices.

The aim of the project is to support colleagues in their work towards gender fair, multiculturally equitable, and globally informed education. At the heart of the project lies an acknowledgement of the balance between the curriculum on the shelves (academic scholarship) and the curriculum of the selves. 

In addition to my leadership role on the SEED Project this coming year, I also serve as Outreach and Widening Participation Officer for the School of English.


In keeping with my research interests, I teach in the fields of American Literature and critical theory at both undergraduate and MA level.

I convene modules on African American literature, Modern American fiction, contemporary American literature and critical literary theories of gender and sexuality. I teach across the curriculum on the BA in English Literature and co-teach modules with colleagues in the School and in other departments.

At postgraduate level, I offer a module on "Reading Whiteness in American Literature" which takes its shorter-title "White Like Me" from the brilliant Eddie Murphy sketch parodying the performance of whiteness. This ground-breaking module explores the literary and theoretical construction of whiteness in a range of nineteenth-, twentieth- and twenty-first century works by authors such as Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, James Baldwin, Sherman Alexie, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates and others and engages an interdisciplinary field of critical scholarship and media (including a case study on Orange is The New Black).

Recently, I collaborated with local author Desiree Reynolds as part of a public engagement project showcased in the In the CityFestival 2014. In addition, Desiree and I worked together to deliver a lecture on Reading Race in Contemporary British and American Fiction and co-taught three seminars together exploring her debut novel Seduce (2013).

I am also Director of the Sheffield Black Atlantic Project which explores the place of Sheffield in the history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade unearthing the stories of radical abolition as well as commercial, industrial and personal profit. If you want to hear more about this project, please do get in touch.

In May 2012, Janine Bradbury and I launched the University of Sheffield’s Race Research Network (RRN). The RRN is an interdisciplinary network of academic staff teaching and researching within the field of race-related studies. The aim of the RRN is to promote collaborative scholarship, public engagement work (concerned with race, pedagogy and widening participation) and to support postgraduate students working within the field.

Since 2007, I have been working on a part-time basis in order to care for my three young children. My working pattern is Monday (9-5), Tuesday (9-5) and Wednesday (9-2). 


I welcome PhD applicants who wish to undertake research in American Literature (particularly African American Literature), issues of race, gender and/or sexuality in twentieth-century writing, as well as applicants who have an interest in the study of whiteness.


  • Van Duyvenbode, R. Literary Whiteness: Reading Whiteness Critically in African American Literature and Theory (forthcoming)
Articles, Chapters and Reviews
  • van Duyvenbode, Rachel (2009), ‘Darkness Made Visible: Miscegenation, Masquerade and the Signified Racial Other in Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll and Streetcar Named Desire’, in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Modern Critical Interpretations, edited by Harold Bloom, New York: Chelsea House
  • van Duyvenbode, Rachel (2008), Review of Lena Ahlin’s The ‘New Negro’ in the Old World: Culture and Performance in James Weldon Johnson, Jessie Fauset and Nella Larsen, MLR, 103:2, 530-531
  • van Duyvenbode, R., Fernandez, Luigi and MacLachlan, Sarah (2006), ‘Post 1945 American Literature’, Year’s Work in English Studies 85, 866-977
  • van Duyvenbode, Rachel (2006) Review of Todd Vogel, ReWriting White: Race, Class, and Cultural Capital in Nineteenth-Century AmericaJournal of American Studies, 40:2, 457-458
  • van Duyvenbode, R., Fernandez, Luigi and MacLachlan, Sarah (2005), ‘Post 1945 American Literature’, Year’s Work in English Studies 84, 872-944
  • van Duyvenbode, Rachel (2005) Review of Gesa Mackenthun’s Fictions of the Black Atlantic in American Foundational LiteratureJournal of American Studies, 39:3, 265-266
  • van Duyvenbode, Rachel (2003), ‘Introduction’ and editor, U.S. Studies OnLine, Issue 3, ISSN: 1472-909
  • van Duyvenbode, Rachel (2003) Review of Jane Davis’ The White Image in the Black Mind: A Study of African American Literature, Comparative American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 1:1,, 115-116
  • van Duyvenbode, Rachel (2001) ‘Darkness Made Visible: Miscegenation, Masquerade and the Signified Racial Other in Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll and Streetcar Named Desire’, Journal of American Studies, 35:2, 203-215