Posted by Bob Martin

Tess Chakkalakal [pronounced “Chah-KAHL-ickle”] is the Peter M. Small Associate Professor of Africana Studies and English at Bowdoin College. She has published widely on nineteenth-century African American and American literature. She is the author of Novel Bondage: Slavery, Marriage, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century America (Illinois, 2011) which earned the Robert K. Martin Prize for best book on American literature and “a must read” title by Choice.  

Her book, Novel Bondage, takes apart the interconnections between marriage, slavery, and freedom, as conveyed in nineteenth-century novels and short stories by black and white authors. She examines how these early novels established literary conventions for describing the domestic lives of American slaves and their search to fulfill their aspirations for personal and civic freedom. Her work also focuses on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book that was written in the shadow of Bowdoin College. Prof. Chakkalakal’s writings challenge readers to reconsider the “marital work” of nineteenth-century fiction and its historical role in shaping our understanding of the literary and political meaning of marriage.

She is co-editor of Jim Crow, Literature, and the Legacy of Sutton E. Griggs (Georgia, 2013). Professor Chakkalakal has earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Duke University, Emory University, and the Mellon Foundation. Before coming to Bowdoin in 2008, Professor Chakkalakal taught at Williams College and Bowling Green State University.