Matt Suazo joined the English faculty in 2016. He specializes in hemispheric American literature, early and nineteenth-century, and his courses at Kenyon speak further to his overlapping interests in authorship, postcolonial studies, the environment, and multi-ethnic U.S. literatures. 

His current book project — "Wetland Americas: Literature, Race and the Mississippi River Valley in Translation, 1542-1884" — explores the circulation of discourses of race and environment within the U.S. and around the Atlantic World. In 2019, he completed work on this project as an AAS-National Endowment for the Humanities Long-term Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society. 

He recently published a chapter in Swamp Souths: Literary and Cultural Ecologies (LSU), has another essay forthcoming in Neither the Time Nor the Place: Today’s Nineteenth Century (U Penn), and his academic writing has also appeared in boundary 2. While a PhD student in Literature and American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, his awards included a dissertation-year fellowship from the Humanities Institute, and he was honored by selection to the University of California President’s Society of Fellows. He has also held research fellowships at the John Carter Brown and Newberry Libraries. 

Prof. Suazo came to Kenyon after teaching English at San Francisco State University, and he has also taught literature and first-year writing at UCSC and the University of New Orleans.

Areas of Expertise

Hemispheric American literature, early and nineteenth-century; literature and environment; postcolonial studies; slave narrative and autobiography. 

Education

2015 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ of California Santa Cruz

2001 — Master of Arts from Univ New Orleans

1994 — Bachelor of Arts from Univ Virginia

Courses Recently Taught

Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors will assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of the department chair. Offered every year.

Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors will assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of department chair. Offered every year.

This course serves as an introduction to the literature and film produced by and about U.S. Latinos and Latinas, and to the theoretical approaches, such as borderlands theory, which have arisen from the lived experience of this diverse group. By focusing on the Latino/a experience, and situating it squarely within an American literary tradition, the course examines the intersections of national origin or ancestry with other identity markers such as gender, race and sexuality. We take an interdisciplinary approach that seeks to connect literature and film with history, political science, psychology, art, sociology and so on. Thus, students read not only literary works, both visual and written, but also related works in other disciplines that speak to the issues raised by the texts. Specifically, the course critically explores the effects and literary expressions of internal and external migration, displacement and belonging, nation and citizenship, code switching and other ways in which Latinos and Latinas have made sense of their experiences in the United States. Beginning with 16th-century accounts by Spaniards in areas that would eventually become part of the United States, and moving to the present day, the class familiarizes students with the culture(s) of a group that plays an important role in our national narrative, and with the issues that this group grapples with on our national stage. This counts toward the post-1900 and diversity requirements for the major. Only open to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104.

While not a comprehensive survey, this course introduces students to a wide range of literature written by African Americans between the mid-nineteenth century and the present. In regard to the chosen authors, the aim is a balance of coverage and depth that will establish a foundation for further study. To that end, the assigned primary readings are shorter, rather than longer, and will be complemented by a selection of essential critical texts. To organize our reading, we will examine literary works in respect to their historical and cultural contexts, and we will also consider the politics of African American literature in the United States: the complex relationships between race, reception, and canon building in the academy, as well as the ways that black writing has informed—and has been informed by—the struggles for freedom, civil rights and social justice. This counts toward the diversity requirement for the major and the historical period requirement (either 1700-1900 or post-1900). Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104.

For the United States, as it made the transition from republic to nation, the period between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars was one of expansion. The nation’s drive to increase its territory went hand-in-hand with its desire to wield political influence across the continent and around the American hemisphere. Meanwhile, an emerging and growing middle class was bound by a proliferating culture of print. In 1800, only a few Americans owned more than a Bible and one or two practical books; however, by mid-century most everyone read for pleasure, and fiction — in newspapers, magazines and books — was what they most often consumed. The degree to which Americans cohered as a nation around popular fiction, the short story and the novel, is the guiding concern of this course. With attention to the printed status of our texts, we will read in short and long form across a variety of genres, from novels of manners, to potboilers, to serious works of social critique. We will thus be very interested in how the cultural aspect of literature, the shared experience of reading, intersected with its social and political function as the nation expanded: as it exerted its “Manifest Destiny,” coped with agricultural and urban industrialization and confronted the questions of Native American and women’s rights, as well as slavery. As we will see, the term “domestic sensations” will take on many connotations. This counts toward the 1700-1900 requirement for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.

In the United States context, the New Orleans and Louisiana contribution to Southern literary regionalism has traditionally included Kate Chopin, George Washington Cable and Lafcadio Hearn. Rather than focus on a handful of late-19th-century writers, this course takes a broader view of the time and space of the region in American literature. Beginning with the colonial era, we read the Mississippi River Valley as an environmental region that shaped the early and 19th-century imagery of North America on a number of comparative scales that included the territory, the nation and the city, as well as the New World and the West. In this expanded context, we arrive at the work of the traditional regionalists with a richer understanding of the historical intersections of nature and culture that support their literary representations. For English majors, this course meets the 1700-1900 requirement. In environmental studies, it satisfies the cultures and societies requirement. Prerequisite: junior standing, ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.

When does a distinctly American literature emerge? In the United States, the answer is often the Early Republic (c. 1789-1830) or the “American Renaissance” (c. 1830-1865), though others say that it begins with the Puritans in 17th-century New England. Each of these answers, however, ignores much of the broader colonial history of the Americas and takes a fairly narrow view of what constitutes “Americanness.” This course, beginning with early European contact with the New World, instead considers the emergence of U.S. national literature within an American hemisphere that was shaped by a dynamic and often violent process of cultural contact and exchange. It is a story in which concepts of racial difference were created through the contest for territorial expansion, religious and secular views of the world were vying for ascendancy, and the revolutionary ideals of the Atlantic world were unevenly fulfilled. In this expanded context, we read Spanish, French and English chronicles of conquest and settlement in dialogue with a range of Amerindian and African diasporic texts: These will include oral and pictorial accounts, as well as spiritual autobiography and slave narrative. From sermons and devotional poetry to speeches and manifestos, we also explore how public and private life in the colonies intersected with religious and political concerns. Given this background, we then consider how more mainstream genres of poetry and fiction, including the novel, took shape in the early U.S. Along with selected critical texts, authors may include Cabeza de Vaca, Anne Bradstreet, Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Jefferson, Phillis Wheatley, Chateaubriand and William Apess. This counts toward either the pre-1700 or the 1700-1900 requirement for the major. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing, or ENGL 210–291 or permission of the instructor.

This seminar will require students to undertake a research paper of their own design, within the context of a course that ranges across genres, literary periods and national borders. Students will study literary works within a variety of critical, historical, cultural and theoretical contexts. All sections of the course will seek to extend the range of interpretive strategies students can use to undertake a major literary research project. Each student will complete a research paper of 15 to 17 pages. Senior English majors pursuing an emphasis in literature are required to take instead ENGL 405. Students pursuing honors will take ENGL 497 rather than ENGL 410. Prerequisite: senior standing and English major or permission of instructor. Offered every year.