Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Katherine Bassard, Chair of Department of English

Dr. Bassard

Dr. Katherine Bassard became chair of the VCU Department of English effective July 1, 2012. Dr. Bassard replaced Dr. Terry Oggel, who served as department chair since July 2006.

Dr. Bassard received her undergraduate degree in English at Wake Forest University, an MA in English here at VCU, and her PhD in English at Rutgers University with a Graduate Certificate in Woman’s Studies. She originally joined the faculty at VCU as an instructor in 1986. From 1992-1999 Dr. Bassard taught at the University of California – Berkeley where she rose to the rank of Associate Professor. She returned to VCU in 1999 and was appointed professor of English in 2010. The former director of the MA program in English, Dr. Bassard recently served as the Dean’s Fellow for the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Dr. Bassard’s expertise has been recognized through her work in African American Literature. She examines poetry, novels, speeches, sermons, and prayers by Maria W. Stewart, Frances Harper, Hannah Crafts, Harriet E. Wilson, Harriet Jacobs, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, and Sherley Anne Williams and discusses how such texts respond as a collective “literary witness” to the use of the Bible for purposes of social domination. Black women’s historic encounters with the Bible were, indeed, transformational; in the process of “turning cursing into blessing” these women were both shaped and reshaped by the scriptures they appropriated for their own self-representation. Her recent publications include Spiritual Interrogations: Culture, Gender, and Community in Early African American Women’s Writing and Transforming Scriptures: African American Women Writers and the Bible. She is the author of many outstanding essays on African American literature and on Christianity and literary theory and has presented numerous lectures and scholarly presentations.

Dr. Bassard has received numerous awards and grants for her teaching and research efforts, including recognition by the Center for Teaching Excellence, Honor’s College, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, as well as from the PEW and Ford foundations. In 2005, she was the recipient of the college’s prestigious Elske v.P. Smith Distinguished Lecturer award.

In his announcement Dean Coleman also thanked Dr. Oggel for his years of service to the Department of English:

“I’d like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Dr. Terry Oggel, who has served as department chair since July 2006. Terry has worked tirelessly on behalf of the department and its faculty, staff and students over these past six years, and this past year has worked closely with me to ensure the continued success of the department and a smooth transition to the new chair.

Please join me in congratulating Kathy — and in thanking Terry for his extraordinary service.”

Dr. Bassard can be reached at (804) 828-1331 or kcbassar@vcu.edu.


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