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Rita Barnard

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

Fisher-Bennett Hall 337

Rita Barnard, who received her Ph.D. from Duke University, is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Penn. She holds a secondary position as Professor Extraordinaire at the University of Stellenbosch and has been a visiting Professor at Brown University and a Mellon Distinguished Lecturer at Wits.  She is currently serving as Director of the Comparative Literature Program and, for many years, was the Faculty Director of the Alice Paul Center and the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program.

Her scholarly interests lie in African and South African literature and cultural studies, modernism and global modernities, twentieth-century American literature (especially 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.

To date, Rita Barnard has published two books: The Great Depression and the Culture of Abundance and Apartheid and Beyond: South African Writers and the Politics of Place. A third book project on global modernism is nearing completion. She is also the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Nelson Mandela (forthcoming in 2014, in time for the 20th anniversary of South Africa's democracy) and is working sporadically on a series of essays on apartheid education.  Strange to say, she is also currently a graduate student, completing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Pretoria under the direction of Dr. David Medalie.

Barnard is a founding member of the Society for Novel Studies and serves on the advisory 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 is the editor of Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies along with Andrew van der Vlies.Please see our website:

In a much earlier life, Rita Barnard worked for Mulligans Models in Cape Time and appeared in many print and TV commercials.  Perhaps as a result, she retains an abiding critical interest in fashion, consumerism, and mass-mediated culture.


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