Professor Frieda Ekotto

Frieda Ekotto, Lorna Goodison Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, Comparative Literature, and Francophone Studies, was honored by the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts as part of LSA's Collegiate Lecture Series on April 15. The ceremony and lecture, held in Weiser Hall and open to the public, represents the highest honor given to the college's faculty. According to LSA’s website, the distinction is awarded to faculty with "a sustained record of excellence in research and scholarship, in teaching, in service, and in other contributions to the university."

In her introduction, LSA Dean Anne Curzan recognized Prof. Ekotto as a leading scholar in the fields of Afroamerican, African, Caribbean and Francophone studies, highlighting Ekotto’s position as current chair of the Modern Language Association (MLA) and former chair of DAAS (2014-2018). She praised Ekotto’s contributions, which include attracting "outstanding graduate students, influencing generations, and enhancing the reputation of the department, college, and university while creating a philanthropic legacy."

Ekotto delivered her lecture on Lorna Goodison’s poem "Elephant" (1995). Goodison is a former poet laureate of Jamaica, a recipient of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, and a DAAS professor emerita. 
Ekotto explained that Goodison’s poem "fascinated the child in me, who is discovering her own space."

Titled "Poetics of Peace and Quiet: One Breath at a Time," Ekotto’s lecture explored personal questions of self-vulnerability, exile, and pain.

"("Elephant") is the most beautiful poem I know about the sweetness of pain," Ekotto said. "It is an attraction of opposites. Reading this poetry opens my visibility to the invisible."

In the lecture abstract published online, Ekotto wrote that the "constant search for my identity renders me immediately vulnerable. ... To think as an exile is to return always to the self; it is a permanent questioning of the ‘I’ that becomes possible, even when suffering the pain of being neither here nor there."

In addition to Ekotto, other event honorees were Professor Ursula Jakob, the Patricia S. Yaeger Collegiate Professor in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, and Professor Scott Spector, the Rudolf Mrázek Collegiate Professor of History and German Studies. 


Read Lorna Goodison’s poem, "Elephant," as published in the Financial Times.