Professor of English at Georgia State University, Elizabeth J. West received her Ph.D. in English with a certificate in Women’s Studies from Emory University. Her teaching and scholarship focuses on spirituality and gender in early African American and Women's Literature, and African Diasporic Literatures of the Atlantic World. She co-edits the Roman & Littlefield book series, Black Diasporic Worlds: Origins and Evolutions from New World Slaving. She is the author of African Spirituality in Black Women’s Fiction: (Lexington Books 2011), coeditor of Literary Expressions of African Spirituality (Lexington Books 2013). Her works can be found in critical anthologies and in journals such as MELUS, Amerikastudien, CLAJ, PALARA, JCCH, Womanist, Black Magnolias, and South Central Review.
She is a former DAAD (Johannes Gütenberg University Mainz, Germany) and AAUW Fellow, and scholar in residence at Dartmouth College in the Department of AAAS. She was among scholars interviewed and consulted in the production of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s award winning documentary on the 75th anniversary of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. She is Treasurer of the College Language Association, Executive Director of the South Atlantic Modern Language Association, and serves on the Advisory Board of The Obama Institute for Transnational Studies.
Her book African Spirituality in Black Women’s Fiction: Threaded Visions of Memory, Community, Nature and Being (Lexington Books 2011) is distinct in its employment of a diachronic lens to examine specific African spiritual sensibilities traceable from early to modern black women’s writings. Beginning with the poetry of Phillis Wheatley, this study traces applications and transformations of African spirituality in black women’s writings that culminate in the conscious and deliberate celebration of Africanity in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. The journey from Phillis Wheatley’s veiled remembrances to Hurston’s explicit gaze of continental Africa represents the literary journey of black women writers to represent Africa as a creative and liberating resource.