UMass Boston

Keyana Parks

Assistant Professor

Areas of Expertise

20th and 21st century African American literature and culture, Satire and Humor Studies, Black Feminist Theory and Writing


PhD, English Literature with a Certificate in African American Studies, University of Pennsylvania
BA, English, Spelman College

Professional Publications & Contributions

Additional Information

Current Project

I am currently working on a book manuscript, entitled The Real Absurd: Black Women Writers and the Satiric Mode, which explores the influence of Black feminist theory and post-Civil Rights era Black women’s writing on twenty-first century satire. My project contends that understanding satire’s prominence within contemporary African American literature and culture requires examining what I call a satiric mode of critique evident in late twentieth century Black women’s writing. I argue that the recent satirical innovations of Black novelists, playwrights, and new media producers such as Azie Mira Dungey and Donald Glover have evolved out of not only Black feminist theory, but also out of Black women artists’ unique critical engagement with our absurdly “post” moment—post-Civil Rights, “post racial,” post Black, post Obama, “post truth.” My manuscript contemplates the turn to satire by African American authors and artists to address the paradoxical landscape of racism in the long shadow of Civil Rights and the seemingly innocuous application of colorblindness. This turn, I contend, is made possible through the writing of Black women whose work addresses the shifting intersections of power informing and shaping their absurd realities. I argue that satire’s inherent formal ability to contain multiple paradoxes has historically allowed African American artists to render and bring into sharp critical focus the incongruencies within Black American life concerning questions of mobility, representation, citizenship, and kinship. Yet, my book suggests that it is the language of Black feminist theorizing on intersectional forms of power, their refusal to capitulate to politics of respectability, and irreverence for the sacred and taboo that catalyzes the form’s move from the periphery of the tradition to its center. In order to understand the shifts within a genre historically dominated by male writers, my research demonstrates that it is necessary to examine how Black women’s writing adopts a satiric mode of critique across and beyond the form of the satiric novel through essays, drama, and visual culture.