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Rita Barnard

Director, Comparative Literature Program; Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Fisher-Bennett Hall 337
Photo by Maysoon Matthysen

Rita Barnard received her Ph.D. from Duke University and is currently Professor of English and Director of the Undergraduate Program in Comparative Literature at Penn. She holds a secondary a position as Professor Extraordinaire at the University of Stellenbosch and has been a Visiting Professor at Brown University and a Mellon Distinguished Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand. For many years, she served as Director of Penn’s Women’s Studies Program and the Alice Paul Center for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Her scholarly interests lie in modernism and global modernities, South African literature and cultural studies, modern American literature (especially of the 1930s), contemporary cinema, and the novel as genre. In 2005 she received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, Penn’s highest teaching award, and, in 2010, the SAS Award for Distinguished Teaching in the School of Liberal and Professional Studies. 

Rita Barnard is the author of The Great Depression and the Culture of Abundance (Cambridge University Press, 1995) and Apartheid and Beyond: South African Writers and the Politics of Place (Oxford University Press, 2006) and the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Nelson Mandela (Cambridge University Press, 2014). She is close to completing her third monograph, South African Modernisms: Language, Theory, Things and is co-editing a collection of essays entitled States of Transition: The Temporalities of South African Writing with Andrew van der Vlies. Her published essays, which cover a wide range of subjects in the broad field of twentieth-century literature and culture, have appeared in journals like American Literature, American Literary History, Cultural Studies, Contemporary Literature, Interventions, Modern Fiction Studies, Novel: A Forum on Fiction, and Research in African Literatures. Barnard is also a contributor to several edited collections, including Senses of Culture, Writing South Africa, The Big Bad Bitterkomix Handbook, Beautiful Ugly: African and Diaspora Aesthetics, Modernism and Colonialism, and the Cambridge Companion to American Modernism, for which she wrote the chapter on modern American fiction. 

Rita Barnard has served on the editorial boards of Contemporary Literature, Novel: A Forum on Fiction, PMLA, Research in African Literatures, Tydskrif vir Letterkunde/Journal of Literary Studies, and English Studies in Africa. With Grant Farred, she co-edited After the Thrill is Gone: Ten Years of Democracy in South Africa, a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly. She has just stepped down as editor of Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies, but continues to serve of the board of this innovative journal. (Please see our website: 

In an earlier life, Barnard was signed with Mulligans Models in Cape Town and featured in many print and TV commercials. Perhaps as a result, she retains an abiding critical interest in fashion, consumerism, and mass-mediated culture. In a simultaneous but alternative universe she is currently a graduate student in the final year of a Ph.D. Program in Creative Writing at the University of Pretoria, under the direction of Professor David Medalie.


Courses Taught

fall 2015

ENGL 392.401 Cinema and Politics

fall 2014

ENGL 600.301 Proseminar

spring 2014

ENGL 064.001 Modern America

fall 2013

spring 2013

ENGL 064.001 Modern America

fall 2012

ENGL 600.301 Proseminar

spring 2012

fall 2011

ENGL 064.001 Modern America

fall 2010

spring 2010

fall 2009

ENGL 064.001 Modern America

summer 2009

spring 2009

ENGL 361.301 War and Literature

fall 2008

summer 2007

spring 2007

fall 2006

summer 2006

spring 2006

fall 2005

ENGL 299.301 J.M. Coetzee
ENGL 797.401 Modern America

spring 2005

ENGL 104.401 The Twentieth Century

fall 2004

ENGL 090.401 Women and Literature

spring 2004

ENGL 384.301 Modern America

fall 2003

ENGL 998.005 Independent Study

spring 2003

fall 2002

ENGL 100.401 Literary Study
ENGL 586.401 J.M. Coetzee

summer 2002

ENGL 104.950 The Twentieth Century

fall 2000

ENGL 090.401 Women & Literature

spring 2000

ENGL 199.306 Waiting For Nothing
ENGL 299.301 Vladimir Nabokov
ENGL 299.312 Rushdie: East and West

fall 1999

ENGL 799.401 American Literature

spring 1999

fall 1998

ENGL 104.401 The Twentieth Century
ENGL 998.032 Independent Study

spring 1998

ENGL 309.301 Junior Honors Seminar

fall 1996

spring 1996

ENGL 204.401 Literary Theory

fall 1995

ENGL 104.001 The Twentieth Century
ENGL 591.401 American Modernism

spring 1995

fall 1994