2018 Executive Committee Officers and Members

photo of Rafa Ocasio

Rafael Ocasio, President
Rafael Ocasio (Ph.D., Latin American Literatures, University of Kentucky, 1987) is Charles A. Dana Professor of Spanish at Agnes Scott College, Decatur-Atlanta, Georgia. He is the author of Cuba’s Political and Sexual Outlaw (University Press of Florida, 2003), Latin American Culture and Literature (Greenwood Press, 2004), The Making of a Gay Activist (University Press of Florida, 2007), and Afro-Cuban Costumbrismo: From Plantations to the Slums (University Press of Florida, 2012). Most recently, he has contributed “Queering the Cuban Exile: Reinaldo Arenas’s Memoirs as a Sexual Outlaw” to Dictatorships in the Hispanic World: Transatlantic and Transnational Perspectives (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2013). He is currently working on a book manuscript: “Franz Boas in Puerto Rico: Retention and Reinvention of Puerto Rican Folklore,” an edited, critical anthology of oral folklore documented by that reputable anthropologist in Puerto Rico in 1915. He teaches courses on Latin American literature and film and Spanish-language courses.

Deborah Coxwell-Teague

Deborah Coxwell-Teague, First Vice President
Deborah Coxwell-Teague currently serves as director of Florida State University’s College Composition Program. In this capacity, she is involved in the training and supervision of close to 150 graduate teaching assistants who teach approximately 400 sections of College Composition annually. She has also served as director of FSU’s Reading/Writing Center and has taught composition at both the high school and community college levels. Deborah’s research interests focus on teacher training and composition. Her publications include Finding Our Way: A Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook, coauthored with the late Wendy Bishop, Everything's a Text, a composition textbook coauthored with Dan Melzer, First-Year Composition: From Theory to Practice, coauthored with Ronald Lunsford, and recent editions of both The Longman Writer and The Longman Reader.

Adrienne Angelo

Adrienne Angelo, Second Vice President
Adrienne Angelo is Associate Professor and Undergraduate Advisor of French at Auburn University where she teaches French language, literature, and film. She received her B.A. in French and Communication and Media Studies from Goucher College and her Ph.D. in French from Emory University. She has been an active member of SAMLA since 2006 and has served as President and Secretary of the film studies panels. Currently Angelo is also serving a three-year term as Regional Representative for the South for Women in French. Angelo has also organized conference panels for sessions at the 20th- and 21st- Century French and Francophone Studies International Colloquium, Northeast Modern Language Association, and Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association. Her research focuses on life writing and contemporary French and Francophone women’s literature and her work has appeared in Australian Journal of French Studies, International Journal of Francophone Studies, Irish Journal of French Studies, Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Literatures, and Women in French Studies. She has co-edited two anthologies—Protean Selves: First-Person Voices in Twenty-First Century French and FrancophoneNarratives, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014 and Cherchez la femme: Women and Values in the Francophone World, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011—and is currently developing a book-length project focusing on women’s autobiography and the fait divers.

Scott Yarbrough

Scott D. Yarbrough, Past President
Scott D. Yarbrough, Ph.D., is a tenured Professor of English and Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs at Charleston Southern University. He has served as Chair of English since 2001 and has primarily taught Modernist and Contemporary American Literature, the Modern Novel, and Creative Writing. During his tenure at CSU, he has earned the university’s two highest awards, the Faculty Merit Award and the Excellence in Teaching Award. He has published articles and chapters on Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Billy Collins, and Dashiell Hammett, and he co-authored the book A Practical Introduction to Literary Study. He has also published fiction in a variety of journals, earning two Pushcart Nominations and winning the South Carolina Prose Fellow in 2008. He served from 2004-2007 as fiction editor for StorySouth and has recently joined the Cormac McCarthy Journal as a member of the Editorial Board. He is a former member of the SAMLA Executive Committee and began attending the conference as a graduate student

photo of Silvia Byer

Silvia Giovanardi Byer, Executive Committee Member
Silvia Giovanardi Byer is Associate Professor of Modern Languages at Park University. She serves as Program Coordinator of the Modern Language program and she is Faculty Fellow of the Honors Academy. Her research interests include Italian Renaissance literature, language acquisition and technology integration. Her numerous publications include books, articles and papers presented at several conferences including SAMLA. Among the various academic contributions, she has been part of Mary Hays’ Female Biography Project and currently she has been invited to collaborate in a project to develop humanities courses creating sustained change in practices of engaged and active learning through a grant funded by the Teagle Foundation, partners in the consortium are Park University along with three other institutions (University of Kansas, Rockhurst University and Elon University). Her more recent endeavor is co-editing a volume on Female Identity in the humanities. Byer experienced living in three different and yet similar cultures: Argentina – Italy and the US. She incorporates these three different perspectives in her classes thus bringing a unique perspective to the discussions. She primarily teaches Spanish culture, language and literature courses and when the opportunity presents – she teaches Italian and French. She is actively involved with SAMLA as she served on the Harper Fund Committee (2011-2014). To complement her academic responsibilities at Park University, Byer is the Chair and organizer of the annual Italian Film Festival in Kansas City. Byer received her Ph. D. from UNC Chapel Hill and was the recipient of the 2011 Park University Distinguished Humanities Professor award.

photo of Chris Cairney

Chris Cairney, Executive Committee Member
Chris Cairney is an associate professor at Middle Georgia State University, where he serves as Assistant Chair of English. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Dr. Cairney has an interest in travel, folklore, and cultural studies and has taught at universities in Turkey, Lebanon, Ecuador, and South Korea. He currently teaches courses in Romantic and Victorian Literature and Critical Theory. He has published one book, Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland, an Ethnography of the Gael (1999), and has published articles on Byron, Conrad, Joyce, Orwell, Irish literature, Scottish literature, and the Gothic novel.

Tara T. Green

Tara T. Green, Executive Committee Member
Tara T. Green lived the bulk of her childhood in a suburb of New Orleans. She received degrees in English from Dillard University and Louisiana State University. She is Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her research interests include African American autobiographies, twentieth century novels, gender studies, Black southern studies, and literature of Africa and the U.S. Black diaspora. She has published numerous articles in these areas of research. Her books From the Plantation to the Prison: African American Confinement Literature (Mercer UP: 2008), A Fatherless Child: Autobiographical Perspectives of African American Men (University of Missouri Press: 2009; winner of 2011 National Council for Black Studies for Outstanding Publication in Africana Studies and Top 10 titles of African American Studies e-books), Presenting Oprah Winfrey: Her Films and African American Literature (Palgrave, 2013) reflect her broad interests in African diaspora literary and cultural studies. She is currently revising a manuscript on the life and work of Alice Dunbar-Nelson. 

She serves on the Program Committee for the Modern Language Association and as President of the Langston Hughes Society.  

Laura Barberan Reinares

Laura Barberán Reinares, Executive Committee Member
Laura Barberán Reinares is an Associate Professor of English and Literature at Bronx Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY). A native Argentinean, she holds the degree of "Profesora de Lengua Inglesa" from the National University of Córdoba, Argentina, and a doctorate in 20th and 21st-century Postcolonial/Transnational Literatures and Irish Literature from Georgia State University. Her research focuses on the intersections of postcolonial literature and theory and contemporary issues of exploitation in the form of sex trafficking/illegal migration. She has published an award-winning article on feminism, globalization and trafficking in the South Atlantic Review, as well as articles on postcolonial literature and pedagogy in peer-reviewed journals such as the James Joyce Quarterly, College Teaching, Irish Migration Studies in Latin America, the South Atlantic Review, and the Canadian Review of Comparative Literature (forthcoming). Her book, Sex Trafficking in Postcolonial Literature: Transnational Narratives from Joyce to Bolaño (Routledge, 2015), analyzes how postcolonial fiction depicts coerced female sex trafficking and the discourses such representations legitimize. Since 2013, she has served on the South Atlantic Review Prize Selection Committee. She also serves as an advisory board member for the nonprofit organization Crossing Point Arts: Bringing the Arts to Survivors of Human Trafficking.

Ren Denton

Ren Denton, Executive Committee Member
Ren Denton, MFA, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English at East Georgia State College. Her teaching and research interests include African American Literature and Southern Literature, particularly twentieth and twenty-first-century cultural productions that filter historical traumas through images, spectacles, and performances of social, racial, gender, regional, and national identities. She is currently working on a manuscript about voodoo aesthetics for McFarland and has published articles and chapters on William Faulkner and African American Literature. She is involved with Digital Yoknapatawpha and is currently working on forming teaching strategies for the digital humanities project. She has been an active participant of SAMLA since graduate school and is currently serving on SAR’s prize selection committee for SAMLA. 

Jay Lutz

Jay Lutz, Executive Committee Member
Jay Lutz is Professor of French and Frances I. Eeraerts ’76 Professor of Foreign Language at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia.  He received his PhD in French literature with a minor in Scandinavian from Yale University in 1986.  He was awarded the rank of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the government of France in 2005 and completed graduate work in Sweden as a Fulbright Scholar.  Professor Lutz prepared the chapter on Verlaine for the Critical Bibliography of  French Literature for the 19th century in the series known as the Cabeen bibliography.  His interest in Verlaine and poetry of the late 19th century has led to a long-term project on French cabaret political song in the 1880s culminating in a book-length study entitled “Coming Back From the Parade” currently under review by publishers.

Lutz has been an active member of the South Atlantic Modern Language Association where he has chaired sessions both in French and Scandinavian.  He was a member of SAMLA’s Executive Committee from 2008 to 2011.

Barton Palmer


R. Barton Palmer, Editor of South Atlantic Review
R. Barton Palmer is Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson University, where he also directs the Global Cultural Studies and Cinema and World Cultures programs.  Palmer holds Ph.D.s from both Yale (Medieval Studies—French, German, and English) and New York University (Cinema Studies).  He is the author, editor, or general editor of nearly fifty academic books on various literary and cinematic subjects, as well as nearly a hundred journal articles and book chapters.  As a medievalist, Palmer is best known as an editor and translator of the poetry of Chaucer’s French contemporaries, including Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Froissart, Eustache Deschamps, and Alain Chartier.  Currently, he co-directs an international research team with musicologist Yolanda Plumley (U of Exeter) whose main focus is the preparation of the first complete edition and English translation of the poetical and musical works of Guillaume de Machaut; this project is supported by the Leverhulme Foundation and by the NEH through the Middle English Text Series at the University of Rochester.  His most recent film monographs are (with Robert Bray) Hollywood’s Tennessee: the Williams Films and Postwar America (Texas) and To Kill a Mockingbird: the Relationship between the Text and the Film (Methuen/A.C. Black).  His recent edited collections include (with David Boyd) Hitchcock at the Source: The Auteur as Adaptor (SUNY); (with Murray Pomerance) “A Little Solitaire”: John Frankenheimer and Postwar Hollywood (Rutgers); and (with Steven Sanders) The Philosophy of Steven Soderbergh (Kentucky).  Palmer is the founding and general editor of book series at Routledge, Edinburgh, Florida, and Georgia.  He is the former Executive Director of SAMLA and was active in the relocation of the association at Georgia State University, where he used to teach.

Elizabeth West, Executive Director

Elizabeth West, Executive Director
Professor of English at Georgia State University, Elizabeth J. West focuses on early African American and Women's Literature, African Diaspora Literatures of the Americas, and literary representations of spirituality, religion and gender. She is the author of African Spirituality in Black Women’s Fiction: Threaded Visions of Memory, Community, Nature and Being (Lexington Books 2011), coeditor of Literary Expressions of African Spirituality (Lexington Books 2013). Her publications also include essays in critical anthologies and articles in journals such as MELUS, CLAJ, PALARA, JCCH, Womanist, Black Magnolias, and South Central Review. Her 2012 article, “From David Walker to President Obama: Tropes of the Founding Fathers in African American Discourses of Democracy, or the Legacy of Ishmael” was recognized among “Featured Articles” in American Studies Journals: A Directory of Worldwide Resources. Along with receiving internal support for her research and teaching, she is a former AAUW Fellow, and conducted research as a scholar in residence at Dartmouth College (Department of AAAS). The recipient of a DAAD Fellowship, Dr. West spent the fall/winter 2013/14 semester teaching and working on her scholarship at Johannes Gütenberg University (Mainz, Germany). She was among scholars interviewed and consulted in the production of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s award winning documentary on the 75th anniversary of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. She serves on the Executive Committee of the College Language Association, and is excited to take on the executive directorship of SAMLA in 2015.