Skip to: Main Content Search Navigation Secondary Navigation
College of Arts & Sciences

Gary Edward Holcomb

Gary Holcomb, wearing sunglasses

Professor of African American Literature

African American Studies
31 S. Court Street, Suite 122

Recent News


Ph.D., English, Washington State University, 1995; M.A., English, California State University, Long Beach, 1988; B.A., English, CSULB, 1984

Research Interests

Gary Holcomb's research is in 20th- and 21st-century African American literatures, with a critical concentration on black modernist period writing. Holcomb has written extensively about Claude McKay’s “queer black Marxism,” the interwar interaction between internationalist leftism, black nationalism and transnationalism, and queer cosmopolitanism. Also among his interests is in the way black interwar period writings, such as those of Harlem Renaissance writers like McKay and Langston Hughes, engaged in intertextual conversation with black literary contemporaries as well as with majoritarian modernists, particularly Hemingway. His courses include Harlem Renaissance, Black Crime Fiction, and Postmodern Blackness.

Visiting Faculty Postings and Faculty Fellowships

Holcomb was conferred a Faculty Fellowship Leave for Spring 2017. During his sabbatical he conducted research in the New York Public Library’s archives, searching through archives related to the Harlem Renaissance. He applied his findings to the Fall 2017 course, "Harlem Renaissance," and he is currently returned to working on Harlem Renaissance author Claude McKay.

In 2016, together with African American literary studies academics from top U.S. institutions, Holcomb was invited to serve as a National Endowment for the Humanities Visiting Scholar for “Ernest J. Gaines the Southern Experience,” an NEH Summer Scholar Institute. The four-week series of seminars was conducted in the Ernest J. Gaines Center, University of Louisiana, Lafayette. Holcomb lectured on “Two Ernests, Grace Under Pressure, and the Blues: Gaines, Hemingway, and Intertextuality,” as well as being available as a resident scholar for the 25 NEH Fellowship participants.

In 2015, Holcomb was invited to teach a five-week graduate summer seminar on “Queer Black Renaissance” as a FIRST (Faculty-In-Residence-Summer-Term) Scholar in the Department of English, University of Colorado, Boulder. He also gave a public lecture on the same topic, based on a current research project.

In addition to the above appointments, he has served three Fulbright postings abroad. He was Senior Fulbright Specialist in the Department of American Studies, Dresden Technical University, Germany, in 2006. Prior to that, he was twice Fulbright Senior Lecturer in American Studies and Literature in Romania, first at the University of Bucharest, during 1998-1999, and then at A.I. Cuza University, Iasi, in 2004-2005.


Appearing in the Kent State University Press “Teaching Hemingway” series is the pedagogical collection Teaching Hemingway and Race. The collection suggests ways for high school and college instructors to teach Hemingway’s writings apropos issues of racial, ethnic, tribal, immigrant, and international identity. As well as the introduction to the book, Holcomb contributed “A Classroom Approach to Black Presence in The Sun Also Rises,” a chapter that offers the instructor suggestions on teaching Hemingway’s modernist novel in conversation with Harlem Renaissance texts.

With Cheryl Higashida, C-U Boulder, and Aaron Lecklider, U Mass Boston, Holcomb co-edited “Sexing the Left,” a Spring/Summer 2015 special issue of English Language Notes. This special issue of ELN is meant to establish radical new directions in the study of the nexus of sexuality and leftist political art and culture. He also contributed a peer-reviewed article, “At Home with Sexing the Left: Writing Claude McKay, Code Name Sasha,” an essay that reviews scholarship on and explores the significance of the critical intersections between the Left and sex studies.

He also contributed a chapter on “Black Marxism and the Literary Left” to the Blackwell Companion to the Harlem Renaissance, published in July 2015. The article surveys Marxist writings during the Harlem Renaissance by authors like Hughes and McKay as well as black leftist scholarship on the interwar period.

“Langston Unashamed: Radical Mythmaking in Hughes’s 1930s Short Fiction” appeared in the Modern Fiction Studies 61.3 (Fall 2015) issue. The article analyzes the Harlem Renaissance writer’s 1930s short fiction in terms of its expression of black Marxist art.

With Michael Gillespie, City College of New York, he is also co-editing a critical collection on Chester Himes, for Palgrave-Macmillan press. This collection offers new approaches to Himes vis-à-vis critical race theory, historiography, queer studies, and other current routes of critical inquiry.

Available in both cloth and paper editions, Hemingway and the Black Renaissance (Ohio State University Press, 2012), co-edited with Charles Scruggs, University of Arizona, collects essays by a range of scholars on the diverse, complex ways black authors like Baldwin, Ellison, Himes, McKay, and Wright hold intertextual conversations with the white American modernist Hemingway. Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, the journal of American Librarian Association, listed Hemingway and the Black Renaissance among its Outstanding Academic Titles as well as Significant University Press Titles for Undergraduates lists. Related publications include a co-written article titled "Hemingway and the Black Renaissance," for Arizona Quarterly 67.4 (Winter 2012), and a solo-written chapter on “Hemingway and African Americans” for Ernest Hemingway in Context, published by Cambridge University Press.

His first book, also in both hardback and paperback, is Claude McKay, Code Name Sasha: Queer Black Marxism and the Harlem Renaissance (University Press of Florida, 2007). The monograph has been discussed widely, with review articles in such journals as African American Review, American Literary History, American Literature, Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, Callaloo, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, and Radical History Review. It is also featured in the annual research roundups American Literary Scholarship (2007), "Fiction: 1900 to the 1930s," published by Duke University Press, 2009, and The Year's Work in Cultural and Critical Theory 17.1 (2009), published by Oxford University Press. Claude McKay, Code Name Sasha won honorable mention for the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Book Award.

In addition to presenting at conferences throughout the United States as well as in Canada and the Caribbean, Holcomb has shared his research at scholarly meetings in France, Germany, Italy, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, and the UK.

Books and Edited Journal Special Issues

Teaching Hemingway and Race. Kent State University Press. Kent: Kent State University Press, 2018.

Co-editor, “Sexing the Left,” special issue of English Language Notes 53.1 (Spring/Summer 2015).

Co-editor, Hemingway and the Black Renaissance. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2012.

Claude McKay, Code Name Sasha: Queer Black Marxism and the Harlem Renaissance. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007.

Co-editor. Chester Himes, New Criticism. Palgrave-Macmillan, forthcoming.

Recent Articles in Scholarly Journals and Chapters in Critical Anthologies

"Black Marxism and the Literary Left." Blackwell Companion to the Harlem Renaissance. London: Wiley-Blackwell, July 2015.

"At Home with Sexing the Left: Writing Claude McKay, Code Name Sasha." English Language Notes 53.1 (Spring/Summer 2015).

"Langston Unashamed: Radical Mythmaking in Hughes's 1930s Short Fiction." Modern Fiction Studies 61.3 (Fall 2015).

"When Wright Bid McKay Break Bread: Tracing Black Transnational Genealogy." Richard Wright: New Readings in the 21st Century. Ed. Alice Craven and William Dow. Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011. 

With Charles Scruggs. “Hemingway and the Black Renaissance.” Arizona Quarterly 67.4 (Winter 2012).

"Hemingway and African Americans." Hemingway in Context. Ed. Suzanne del Gizzo and Debra Moddelmogg. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Courses Taught

  • AAS 1100 Introduction to African American Literature: Ohio Black Writers
  • AAS 2100 African American Literature I: Slave Narratives to Harlem Renaissance
  • AAS 2110 African American Literature II: Harlem Renaissance to Contemporary Black Literature
  • AAS 3100 Postmodern Blackness: Identity and Culture in Contemporary African American Literature
  • AAS 3110 Harlem Renaissance
  • AAS 4100 Literature in the African Diaspora
  • AAS 4110 Black Countercultures

Departmental Social Media

College of Arts & Sciences