English and Creative Writing

RL Watson

RL Watson

Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies


Research Interests

American Racial Culture
African-American Literature
American Religious History
Racial Representation Politics
American Stereotypologies
Race and Visual Culture
Slave Narratives
Constructive Cosmology
Multispecies Studies
Africana Philosophy


The University of Chicago
PhD, Religion & Literature, 2018

Yale Divinity School
MA, Religion, summa cum laude, 2010

Yale University
BA, Film Studies / Theatre Studies, with Distinction in the Major (Film), 2003

Courses Taught

African American Drama African American Literature I
African American Literature II
College Writing
Contemporary Black Authors
Creative Writing
Malcolm & Martin: Voices of Peace and Resistance
Public Speaking


Watson, RL. The Dark Mask: Moral Metaphors of Darkness and the Representational Lives of Black Americans. (In Progress)

Watson, RL. Anatomy of a Judas: A Novel. (In Progress)

Watson, RL. "The Beast Within: Racial Representation and Reversals in the Planet of the Apes Reboot.” Journal of Political Theology. (Under Review)

Conference Papers and Presentations

Watson, RL and Courtney P. Joseph, “What MLK Means to Me” Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL, January 21, 2021.

Sermet, Tessa, RL Watson, and Courtney P. Joseph, “Reliving Lovecraft Country” Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, November 2, 2020.

Watson, RL, “Naker Truths” United Black Association Panel, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL, February 3, 2020.

Watson, RL, “Activism: Climate Catalysts” Global Fest Keynote Address, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL, September 2019.

Watson, RL, “The N-Word” United Black Association Panel, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL, February 2019.

Watson, RL, “Souls Beneath Our Feet: What Fungi Teach Us About Living in Invisibility” American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA March 2018.

Watson, RL, “Reimaginations: Hair” Reimaginations Series, International House, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL November 2017.

Watson, RL, “Darkness as Moral Aesthetic” Theology and Ethics Workshop, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL April 2017.

Watson, RL, “Must Be a Wisdom … Don’t It Hurt? The Substantiality of Haunting in Toni Morrison’s Beloved” American Academy of Religion Annual Conference, San Antonio, TX November 2016.

Watson, RL, “Must Good and Evil Always Be Black and White?” Black and Reformed Conference, South Holland, IL April 2016.

Watson, RL, “Etymological Woes: What Difference Does the History of a Word Like Fair Make?” Alternative Epistemologies Salon Series, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL April 2015.

Watson, RL, “William Grimes’ Free Narrative,” Race and Religion Workshop, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL March 2012.


Outstanding Program of the Year Award (Lake Forest College) (2020)
Christopher Mojekwu Recognition Award (2019)
Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture Dissertation Fellowship (2017)
FTE Dissertation Fellowship (2016)
FTE Doctoral Fellowship (2015)
Edward Ashley Walker Scholarship Prize (2009)
Mary Cady Tew Prize (2009)