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Mecca Jamilah Sullivan Receives MLA’s William Sanders Scarborough Prize

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan is the recipient of the 2021 William Sanders Scarborough Prize for her book The Poetics of Difference: Queer Feminist Forms in the African Diaspora. Given by the Modern Language Association (MLA), the William Sanders Scarborough Prize is awarded for “an outstanding scholarly study of black American literature or culture.” 

“I am thrilled and honored to receive the William Sanders Scarborough Prize from the MLA this year,” says Sullivan. 

The MLA award is given in honor of its namesake, one of the first African American classical scholars, the president of Wilberforce University and the first African American member of the MLA. 

Sullivan’s book, The Poetics of Difference, is an academic exploration of the ways that Black, queer women have carved out spaces for themselves in the creative world. Drawing on the works of writers and artists from Audre Lorde to Missy Elliot, Sullivan examines the unique ways by which these artistic products create and sustain communities set apart from mainstream scholarship. 

The Poetics of Difference is about the theoretical and intellectual capacities of Black queer and feminist creative expression,” Sullivan says. “It has been deeply gratifying to see the importance of Black queer and feminist literary culture recognized, and to share the celebration with the Georgetown community.” 

Sullivan is associate professor of English Georgetown University’s College of Arts & Sciences. She is also an affiliate faculty member in the Department of African American Studies and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. She teaches courses in African American poetry and poetics, Black queer and feminist literature and creative writing. 

Her debut novel, Big Girl, was published earlier this year to critical acclaim and shortlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. Sullivan’s short story collection, Blue Talk and Love, won the Judith Markowitz Award for Fiction from Lambda Literary. Big Girl is currently featured on TODAY’s holiday book gift guide

-by Hayden Frye (C’17)

English Department
Women's and Gender Studies