Mark Christian Thompson is Professor and Chair of English at Johns Hopkins University, where his primary research focus is the Philosophy of Race, which combines German, African-American, and Comparative critical studies with critical theory and musicology, including jazz studies. He is the author of three books:
Anti-Music Jazz and Racial Blackness in German Thought between the Wars (SUNY Press 2018): Anti–Music examines the critical, literary, and political responses to African American jazz music in interwar Germany. During this time, jazz was the subject of overt political debate between left-wing and right-wing interests: for the left, jazz marked the death knell of authoritarian Prussian society; for the right, jazz was complicit as an American import threatening the chaos of modernization and mass politics. This conflict was resolved in the early 1930s as the left abandoned jazz in the face of Nazi victory, having come to see the music in collusion with the totalitarian culture industry. Mark Christian Thompson recounts the story of this intellectual trajectory and describes how jazz came to be associated with repressive, virulently racist fascism in Germany. By examining writings by Hermann Hesse, Bertolt Brecht, T.W. Adorno, and Klaus Mann, and archival photographs and images, Thompson brings together debates in German, African American, and jazz studies, and charts a new path for addressing antiblack racism in cultural criticism and theory.
Kafka’s Blues: Figurations of Racial Blackness in the Construction of an Aesthetic (Northwestern University Press 2016): Kafka’s Blues proves the startling thesis that many of Kafka’s major works engage in a coherent, sustained meditation on racial transformation from white European into what Kafka refers to as the “Negro” (a term he used in English). Indeed, this book demonstrates that cultural assimilation and bodily transformation in Kafka’s work are impossible without passage through a state of being “Negro.” Kafka represents this passage in various ways—from reflections on New World slavery and black music to evolutionary theory, biblical allusion, and aesthetic primitivism—each grounded in a concept of writing that is linked to the perceived congenital musicality of the “Negro,” and which is bound to his wider conception of aesthetic production. Mark Christian Thompson offers new close readings of canonical texts and undervalued letters and diary entries set in the context of the afterlife of New World slavery and in Czech and German popular culture.
Black Fascisms: African American Literature and Culture between the Wars (University of Virginia Press 2007): Black Fascisms addresses the startling fact that many African American intellectuals in the 1930s sympathized with fascism, seeing in its ideology a means of envisioning new modes of African American political resistance. Thompson surveys the work and thought of several authors and asserts that their sometimes positive reaction to generic European fascism, and its transformation into black fascism, is crucial to any understanding of Depression-era African American literary culture.
Mark Christian Thompson is the recipient of numerous fellowships, grants and awards, and he has delivered lectures at Yale, Harvard, Brown, NYU: Prague, UCLA, Emory, Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, and the Institute for American Studies in Rome, among others. He is the author of essays and chapters published in a wide range of academic books and journals, including African American Review, MELUS, and the Blackwell Companion to African American Literature.
He teaches courses in philosophy, German literature and thought, African American studies, and literary theory. He has directed doctoral theses as well as advanced undergraduate research.
He is the current chair of the English department at Johns Hopkins, and he also spent four years as the department’s Director of Graduate Studies. He has served on several academic and administrative internal and external committees, hiring committees, and review boards.
He has lived in Berlin, Paris and Prague, and currently divides his time between New York, Baltimore and Prague.
To contact Mark Christian Thompson, please email mcthompson(at)jhu.edu