Michele Elam

William Robertson Coe Professor in the Humanities
Faculty Associate Director, institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence
Bass University Fellow in Undergraduate Education
Photo of Faculty Michele Elam

Michele Elam is the William Robertson Coe Professor of Humanities in the English Department at Stanford University, a Faculty Associate Director of the Insitute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence https://hai.stanford.edu and a Race & Technology Affiliate at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity https://ccsre.stanford.edu/race-technology-initiative

Elam’s research in interdisciplinary humanities connects literature and the social sciences in order to examine changing cultural interpretations of gender and race. Her work is informed by the understanding that racial perception in particular impacts outcomes for health, wealth and social justice. More recently, her scholarship examines intersections of race, technology and the arts. “Making Race in the Age of AI,” her most recent book project, considers how the humanities and arts function as key crucibles through which to frame and address urgent social questions about equity in emergent technologies. She is teaching a new course, "AI + Arts + Activism" in spring 2021.

Elam’s books include Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2003), The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium (Stanford University Press, 2011), and The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (Cambridge University Press, 2015). She has published articles on race and culture in PMLAAfrican American ReviewAmerican LiteratureTheatre Journal and Genre, as well as op-eds for CNN, Huffington Post, and Boston Review. She was awarded the 2018 Darwin T. Turner Award for Outstanding Scholarship by the African American Literature and Culture Society.

Ar Stanford, she has served as the Director of the interdisciplinary graduate Program in Modern Thought and Literature (MTL), the  Director of African & African American Studies, and the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the English Department. Nationally, Elam has served as Chair of the Executive Committee for the Black Literatures & Culture Division of the Modern Language Association (MLA) and on the Executive Council for the American Literature Society at MLA. She is currently on the Advisory Boards of Stanford’s Program in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Studies, the Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity, and serves on the Director’s Council for the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the d.school).

Dedicated to teaching, Elam has been awarded the 2018 Walter J. Gores Award, the University's highest teaching honor. She is also thrice the recipient of the St Clair Drake Outstanding Teaching Award at Stanford (2004, 2006, 2015) and has twice received the Faculty Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Students as a Teacher, Advisor and Mentor from the Program in Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity (2013, 2018), among her other teaching awards.

Undergraduate and graduate seminars include: 

  • Arts + AI + Activism
  • The Harlem Renaissance
  • James Baldwin & American Culture
  • Got Genius? W.E.B. Du Bois
  • Toni Morrison & the Occasion of Feminism
  • Gender Studies for the 21st Century
  • Mixed Race Politics & Culture
  • Mixed Race in the U.S & South Africa
  • Narratives of Enslavement & Theories of Redress
  • Whiteness

Office Hours

By appt, please email at melam@stanford.edu to set up Zoom appointment

Research Interests

Specialization(s)
American Literature - 19th Century
American Literature - 20th Century
American Literature - Contemporary
American Renaissance/Antebellum
Gay/Lesbian/LGBT
Literary Criticism/Theory
Literature and Art
Literature and Psychology/Cognitive Science
Modern and Postmodern Literature
Performance Studies