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New Faculty Profile: Josh Cohen

By Jessica Schumaker

Cohen head shotJosh Cohen is a Lecturer at the University of Georgia, where he teaches first-year writing in the English Department. He completed his Phd at Emory in 2019 before going to Georgia Tech to do the Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellowship, during which he worked on his book, Excavating Exodus: Biblical Typology and Racial Solidarity in African American Literature. Exodus is based on his dissertation and looks at African American narratives and adaptations of the Exodus.

More recently, Dr. Cohen has several side-projects he works on outside of teaching. For the last year and a half, he was in the process of submitting, revising, and resubmitting an article about the environment and post-secularism - the desire for spirituality that isn’t linked to existing institutions. “So I look at that along with eco-criticism or just the centrality of non-human nature in several sci-fi novels, such as The Overstory,” he says.

After that article was published, Dr. Cohen began working on a project that delves into religion and race in comic books, such as Watchman - both the graphic novel and the HBO show - and Doomsday Clock. He is interested in the different ways religious imagery is used in conjunction with race and the racial identity of superheroes. Of particular fascination to him are “those given god-like status within the narrative and whether they are represented as white or as Black and the kind of politics within that.” In addition to this project, Dr. Cohen was invited to contribute to an Oxford Handbook about Moses, which will be a compilation of essays about the topic. His will be about African American views of Moses.

Though he currently teaches first-year writing, Dr. Cohen looks forward to teaching an American Literature survey, African American novels and writers, and 19th-20th century novels in the future, as all are within his areas of research. He was drawn to African American literature after reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: “I was blown away by it, and that was kind of a step towards the broader Black tradition of novels.” The whole process was organic to him, especially as he started to explore preaching in novels, preachers in novels, and religious oratory for his dissertation.

After reading David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World - an abolitionist pamphlet - he became involved with Black preaching as a distinct oratory tradition and the character of the Black preacher when they show up in novels and poetry. This shaped the direction of the argument of his first book, and he uses it to teach rhetoric in his first-year writing classes. “It’s very passionate rhetoric and very creative arguments, lots of exclamation points and creative punctuation…he has a very confrontational rhetoric style,” Dr. Cohen said.

Outside of Park Hall, Dr. Cohen says UGA doesn’t feel that huge to him, and that he steers clear of the campus on game days. He enjoys the varied attitudes of students at UGA; some are focused on academics, others on football or frats. “Here it’s a different vibe,” he says. “There’s a broader range of students.”


Jessica Schumaker is an English major at UGA and the social media intern for the English department.


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