Mark Christian Thompson is Professor of English, at Johns Hopkins University, where his research and teaching concentrate on the comparative critical study of race in German and African American literature, politics and culture. He approaches his fields of inquiry from a wide range of critical perspectives, including political theory, aesthetics, the history of anthropology, and cultural studies. He is the author of three books: Anti-Music Jazz and Racial Blackness in German Thought between the Wars; Kafka’s Blues: Figurations of Racial Blackness in the Construction of an Aesthetic; and Black Fascisms: African American Literature and Culture Between the War.
Thompson was awarded the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research in 2017. His books and essays reflect a concern for the dialectical exchange between German modernism and black expressive culture, in terms of race and racism, conceptions of aesthetic production, and politics. Indeed, Thompson displays a willingness to interrogate the overlooked and/or ignored, and to challenge prevailing critical paradigms in attempting to provide a fuller picture of its subject. His research and teaching attempt to find unexpected and at times controversial aesthetic and political appropriations conditioned by histories, conceptual and material, of racial blackness. This work explicates the ways in which being-black and black-being are construed in the constructed environment as forms of political condemnation and exclusion, and deployed in metaphors and tropes in literary texts and everyday language as aesthetic ideology.
Thompson’s teaching is truly interdisciplinary and aimed at fostering diversity both within and across fields. Working in African American Studies and in German, his courses reach a wide audience of undergraduate and graduate students, in order to bring into dialogue literary and cultural traditions that previously were thought to be irrevocably separate. Reflecting his training in Comparative Literature, Thompson teaches a wide variety of national literatures, literary periods and fields. These fields can be separated roughly into three groups: African-American literature; German literature; and critical theory. Among the graduate and undergraduate courses Thompson has taught are: The Philosophy of African American Literature (graduate); African American Literary Theory and Criticism (graduate); Modernism and Sacrifice (graduate); The Body, Space, and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (graduate); African American Literature: The Beginnings to 1914 (undergraduate); Slave Narratives and Neo-Slave Narratives (undergraduate); The Gothic Novel (undergraduate); The Bible as Literature (undergraduate); and Introduction to Literary Study (undergraduate).
Thompson was born in Queens, New York, the son of an African-American father and a mother immigrated from Sicily. He studied Art History at the University of Virginia, and completed his PhD in Comparative Literature at New York University, in 2001. He is married and has a daughter. Thompson splits his time between Baltimore, MD, USA, and Prague, CZ.