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Jesse Goldberg

Educational Background

Cornell University, MA
State University of New York College at Geneseo, BA



Jesse A. Goldberg works in the interdisciplinary fields of Black studies and American studies with a grounding in African American literature and performance from the nineteenth century to the present. He is invested in thinking about the afterlife of slavery as it manifests in contemporary forms of anti-black violence and as it structures ways of being and ways of organizing society for both those who are and those who are not (read as) black.

His dissertation, The Excessive Present of Abolition: The Afterlife of Slavery in Law, Literature, and Performance, argues that a temporality of an “excessive present” which collapses past, present, and future into the moment of the now enacts possibilities for thinking and practicing a politics of abolition that reaches towards both abstract concepts of freedom and concrete visions such as the end of prisons. The political and cultural aim of the dissertation is grounded in literary texts that span historical periods – including plays by William Wells Brown, Pauline Hopkins, Angelina Weld Grimke, and Suzan-Lori Parks; poetry by M. NourbeSe Philip and David Dabydeen; and novels by Toni Morrison, Sutton Griggs, Shirley Anne Williams, and Fred D’Aguiar. Ultimately these texts which cross temporal, national, and generic boundaries act against the reasoned temporality of law to open up interpretive spaces where the long history and multitudinous meanings of abolition unfold and linger after the moment of reading.   

He has published essays in MELUS and CLA Journal as well as the volume Toni Morrison on Mothers and Motherhood (Demeter Press, July 2017), and has work forthcoming in Callaloo (summer/fall 2017) and Infrastructures of African American Print (University of Wisconsin Press). His book reviews can be found in Callaloo and The Journal of Black Studies. As a teacher, he has offered courses at Cornell including “Race, Law, and the Black Lives Matter Movement,” “Black Plays & Performance,” and “Great New Books,” and will be teaching “The Legal Life of Racism” through the American Studies Program in spring 2018. Through the Cornell Prison Education Program he has taught “Freshman English I: Writing with/against Other Voices,” “World Literature I: Drama, Theater, & Performance,” and academic writing workshops in prisons surrounding the Ithaca and Tompkins County area.  


  • English


  • Black Studies
  • American Studies
  • African American Literature
  • Performance Studies, Theater, and Dramatic Literature
  • Law and Literature
  • Policing and Incarceration