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About Wendy Laura Belcher

Wendy Laura Belcher is an associate professor of medieval, early modern, and modern African literature with a joint appointment in the Princeton University departments of Comparative Literature and African American Studies.

Working at the intersection of early modern and postcolonial studies, she has a special interest in the literatures of Ethiopia, Ghana, and Britain and a multi-book comparative project demonstrating how African thought has animated EuroAmerican canonical literature, including the widely reviewed book that was a finalist for the Bethwell A. Ogot Award for best book on East Africa: Abyssinia’s Samuel Johnson: Ethiopian Thought in the Making of an English Author (Oxford, May 2012). The next part of that project is in progress, a book titled The Black Queen of Sheba: A Global History of an African Idea.

Prof. Belcher has been studying African literature for over two decades and is now working to bring attention to early African literature, particularly that in African languages, through her research and translation. For instance, she is the co-translator with Michael Kleiner of perhaps the first biography of an African woman, originally written in Gəˁəz (classical Ethiopic), The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros A Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman (Princeton University Press 2015), for which she received the Fulbright US Scholars Award. She and Kleiner also received the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women award for the best Scholarly Edition in Translation of 2015. She often hosts a seminar on African language literature at the America Comparative Literature Association annual conference. These scholarly interests emerge from Professor Belcher’s life experiences growing up in East and West Africa (see the Childhood Photo Gallery), where she became fascinated with the richness of Ghanaian and Ethiopian intellectual traditions.

Previous books include the best-seller Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success, which has helped thousands to publish their important work and been cited in over 140 publications, and a memoir titled Honey from the Lion: An African Journey (Dutton, 1988), for which she won the Washington State Governors Writers Award and a PEN Society Martha Albrand Finalist (awarded for first book of nonfiction; judged by Annie Dillard and Allen Ginsberg). She has also published articles on African, African American, Chicano, and American Indian literature in Callaloo; Comparative Literature Studies; Third Text; Northeast African Studies; Notes and Queries; Journal of Scholarly Publishing; LIT;  and American Indian Studies and Culture Journal.

Before becoming a professor, Prof. Belcher worked as an editor. She spent eleven years as the manager of a small academic press with a peer-reviewed journal and several book series, the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press, one of the most active presses in the University of California system. She also spent three years as the senior editor of the UCLA African Bibliography Project, two years as an assistant editor with an educational publisher subcontractor in Washington DC, and some time as a freelance academic editor for Oxford University Press, Routledge, University of California Press, Ohio University Press, Harcourt Brace, the National Museum of African Art, and various UCLA departments.​

She also worked as a freelance journalist preparing articles, reports, radio scripts, and multi-image scripts for such media outlets as BBC Africa News, Pacifica Network News, Salon.com, The Seattle Times, Ethiopian Tribune, Ethiopian Review, LA Weekly, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Index on Censorship, African News Online, Freedom Forum, Frontlines, CSW Newsletter, CSRC Newsletter, Flourish, Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly, Mount Holyoke News, Practical Supervision, and such organizations as the National Museum of African Art, United States Agency of International Development, Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Jubilee Ministries, Potter’s House Press, Washington Project for the Arts, United States Information Service, Seattle Central Community College Institute of English, PEN Center USA West, the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, UCLA Graduate Division, UCLA African Studies Center, UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, Mount Holyoke College, and the Center for the Strategic Initiatives of Women.

Prof. Belcher's rearch interests include African language literature (especially that in Gəˁəz, Amharic, Hausa), Anglophone African literature, Francophone African literature, early African literature, African film, African women authors, history of the African book, African manuscript cultures, African female saints, and queer African studies; as well as race and gender in eighteenth-century English literature, comparative African and European studies, postcolonial literature,  post-war British drama, modern lyric poetry, Chicana/o literature, African American literature, comparative hagiographies, gender and sexuality, memoir, indirection and censorship, travel literature, manuscript studies, prison literature, women's intellectual autobiography, and supernatural monsters.​

Prof. Belcher was awarded her doctorate in English literature (2008), her master's in urban planning (1993), and her masters' in African studies (1991) from the University of California at Los Angeles. Her bachelor's in English literature (1984) is from Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She went to highschool in Seattle, Washington, at Nathan Hale High School. Before that, she attended Lincoln Community School in Accra, Ghana, and the International School in Gondar, Ethiopia.

An early adopter, Prof. Belcher first launched her web page in early 1999, hosted at www.sscnet.ucla.edu/csrc/belcher. She then created her eponymous web page, www.wendybelcher.com, in 2003, making it one of the early Web 1.0 era websites.

More Information

  • If you are interested in following her on Twitter, her handle is @wendylbelcher
  • If you are interested in emailing her, her email is wbelcher@ucla.edu.
  • If you are interested in reading some of Prof. Belcher's scholarly research, you can go to her Academia site where she has posted many of her articles and portions of her books.
  • If you are interested in watching Prof. Belcher talk in general about her research on African literature, present on one aspect of the book about Walatta Petros, or show images from monasteries on Lake Tana, you can go to Videos and Slideshows.
  • If you are interested in talking with Prof. Belcher and have a Princeton ID, you can sign up for Writing Walks and Talks with her.
  • If you are interested in buying some of Prof Belcher's books, you can go to her Amazon Profile.
  • If you are interested in learning about citations of Prof. Belcher's scholarly research, you can go to her Google Scholar Profile.  
  • If you need to introduce her for a research talk or panel, and don't want to have to cut all of the above down, here is a short research bio to read:
    • WENDY LAURA BELCHER is associate professor of African literature in Princeton University’s departments of Comparative Literature and African American Studies. She is working to bring attention to early African literature and studies how African thought has informed a global traffic of invention. She is the author of Abyssinia’s Samuel Johnson: Ethiopian Thought in the Making of an English Author (Oxford, 2012), and the translation with Michael Kleiner of The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman (Princeton, 2015), perhaps the first African biography of an African woman. Her book in progress is The Black Queen of Sheba: A Global History of an African Idea.
  • If you need to introduce her for a writing or publications talk or panel, and don't want to have to cut all of the above down, here is a short writing for publication bio to read:
    • ​WENDY LAURA BELCHER is associate professor of African literature in Princeton University’s departments of Comparative Literature and African American Studies. She worked as a freelance copyeditor for many years, then served for eleven years as the managing editor of a peer-reviewed journal in ethnic studies at UCLA, and has personally taught hundreds of graduate students and faculty about writing for publication. Her best-seller Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (SAGE 2009) has helped thousands to publish their important work and has been cited in over 110 publications on writing for publication. Her research books include Abyssinia’s Samuel Johnson,The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros, and her book in progress is The Black Queen of Sheba: A Global History of an African Idea.