May 19, 2008
In Memoriam: Winston Napier, E. Franklin Frazier Chair and Associate Professor of English
Winston Napier, Clark University's E. Franklin Frazier Chair and associate professor of English, died Sunday, May 18, after a sudden illness. The Clark community is saddened by his loss. A memorial service is being planned. Details will be shared as they are finalized.
Professor Napier earned a bachelor's degree from William Patterson College in 1974 and a master's degree and Ph.D. at Howard University in 1977 and 1991, respectively. He taught at Howard University, Purdue University, George Washington University and Bates College before joining the Clark faculty in 1995 as the E. Franklin Frazier Professor. In this tenure-track professorship, Napier created and taught innovative courses on African American literature and critical theory. In addition to the traditional African American canon, his courses explored recently published works by African American writers, particularly contemporary novels of satire.
Professor Napier specialized in critical theory, 20th-century African American literary culture, and African American philosophical thought. A former editor of the Howard University Journal of Philosophy, he published in Literature and Psychology, The Massachusetts Review, New Literary History, and The Village Voice Literary Supplement. He was editor of the acclaimed book "African American Literary Theory: A Reader." In his research, Professor Napier explored the intercultural dynamics responsible for the unique structure and configuration of black expressive discourse. He examined the theoretical foundations of African American intellectual culture. In his most recent work on the satiric novel, he analyzed the ways in which contemporary African American writers adopt a distinctively postmodern reaction to racism and other forms of social injustice through a campaign of disparagement qualified by the force of contemptuous laughter. He invited members of the Clark and Worcester communities to explore these issues as well through the African American Intellectual Culture Series, a lecture series sponsored by Clark's Higgins School of Humanities that Professor Napier helped organize each year.
"Winston's passing is heart-breaking for the Clark academic community. He made a profoundly thoughtful contribution to the intellectual life of students and faculty here. Dozens of students have told me he was their most stimulating teacher in college. I was honored that he asked me one year to lead a discussion in his course on the Harlem Renaissance. I will miss him very much," says President John Bassett.