Wood, Maddox selected for Fulbright US Scholar Awards

Assistant Professor of English Joseph Wood is selected for the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to Georgia, while Associate Professor of Spanish John T. Maddox IV, Ph.D., is selected for the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to Brazil.

StreaM FB Maddox WoodJohn Maddox, Ph.D., and Joseph WoodTwo faculty members from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences have been selected for Fulbright United States Scholar Awards for academic year 2024-2025.

Associate Professor of Spanish John T. Maddox IV, Ph.D., was selected for the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award, traveling to Brazil, while Assistant Professor of English Joseph Wood was selected for the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award traveling to Georgia, primarily in the city of Kutaisi.

The Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship program of international educational and cultural exchange, offers passionate and accomplished students and scholars in more than 160 countries the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to mutual understanding. Fulbright Scholars — college and university faculty, administrators, and researchers, as well as artists and professionals — build their skills and connections, gain valuable international insights, and return home to share their experiences with their students and colleagues. Scholars come from and go to all institution types and geographic regions across the United States and around the world. The Fulbright Scholar Program for academics and professionals awards more than 1,700 fellowships each year, enabling 800 U.S. Scholars to go abroad and 900 Visiting Scholars to come to the United States.

Maddox: “Affect and Diaspora: Afro-Brazilian Women’s Poetry”

Maddox is a specialist in Black literature of the Hispanic Caribbean and Brazil in the UAB Department of World Languages and Literatures. His research and teaching interests are Afro-Hispanic literature and culture, the Caribbean, United States-Brazil-Hispanic comparisons, and ways of understanding the body. In addition to Spanish, Maddox has taught the department’s first courses on Brazil and the Portuguese language.

In his first book, he analyzed African enslavement in recent novels. In his third, he discussed Black female authors’ liberating allegories of Puerto Rico as “one big family.”

“A uniquely Black literature, which in the U.S. can be traced back to abolitionist slave narratives, is less institutionalized and promoted in Latin America, though things are rapidly changing,” Maddox said. “As Black rights movements flourish throughout the region, the need to recapture lost memories from history calls to Black writers.”

Building on the first comprehensive study on Black authors in Brazil by Eduardo de Assis Duarte and Maria Nazareth Soares (2010), Maddox is focusing on Black female writers from the 19th century to today, all of whom have cultivated lyric poetry.

“Arguably, this genre is defined by its expression of the subject’s feelings. In our age of ‘Black consciousness,’ feelings are often overlooked,” Maddox wrote. “If one is not Black, he does not know how a Black person feels, and even she may struggle to describe it. What, then, defines or elucidates Black affect? How can one demonstrate a shared set of ‘Black’ sensations and bonds that link Brazilian poets nationally and with other Afrodescendants of the Americas?”

Using affect theory, Maddox approaches these questions in his upcoming book, tentatively titled “Affect and Diaspora: Afro-Brazilian Women’s Poetry,” for which he was awarded a Fulbright All Disciplines Award to spend the spring 2025 semester conducting research at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil. Located on the scenic isle of Florianópolis, the university is famous for its contributions to literary theory and promoting women’s writing, he says.

Wood: “Uncommon Condition: The English Philology Classroom in Georgia in the Age of Covid and Russian Aggression.”

Wood teaches world literature, creative writing and composition in the UAB Department of English. He is the author of four books and five chapbooks of poetry, which include “YOU” (Etruscan, 2015) and “Broken Cage” (Brooklyn Arts, 2014), a 2013 National Poetry Series finalist. His work has appeared widely, in journals such as Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, North American Review, BOMB and Verse Daily, among others. In 2023, he was awarded a grant from the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus for his current book project, “Uncommon Condition: The English Philology Classroom in Georgia in the Age of Covid and Russian Aggression.”

Wood says he loved to teach the old 200-level literature survey in World Literature. That course had a simple question: Is there a common human condition, and if so, what is literature’s role in expressing it?

“I used to think most people saw literature as an expression of common humanity; but when COVID hit, I began to rethink this premise,” Wood said. “I began to suspect that things were much more culturally constructed, and so I wanted to explore how other parts of the world taught American and British literature.”

As someone who studied Russian in high school and university, and who had traveled across the post-Soviet sphere, he says he settled on focusing on how Western literature was taught in the South Caucasus — particularly the Republic of Georgia.

Starting in fall 2021, Wood interviewed students, faculty and administrators across the country on pedagogical methods and the value of the degree, particularly as the country was making overtures toward greater European integration. However, COVID severely restricted how this demand could be met, and upon his first trip to the country, he learned how the pandemic pressurized structural inequities that stem from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent civil war in the ’90s. When he returned to Georgia in summer 2022, the country was further reeling from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Twenty percent of Georgia is still occupied by Russia, and so there was a worry that the Ukraine war would be a pretext for Russia to make further incursions into Georgia. When he returned in 2023 through a grant from the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus, parts of the country had absorbed waves of Russian migrants, many fleeing Putin’s military conscription. Wood asked students and faculty how the value of English was perceived in the face of all this social volatility.

The Fulbright Award will have Wood return to Georgia for three separate blocks of six to seven weeks, when he will conclude his interviews for his forthcoming book project.

“I will ask students and professors how they imagine the future in their country, and what kinds of pedagogical and social improvements they would like to see,” Wood said. “The country is facing a set of elections this fall, and I will also ask how these elections — ones that could potentially further exacerbate social volatility — have an effect on their studies and how students will eventually use an English literature degree.”

Wood will also teach in Georgia, primarily at Akaki Tsereteli State University, where he has an ongoing relationship with the department: He and Eliso Pantskhava, Ph.D., taught a Collaborative Online International Learning course on the heroic epic for UAB and ATSU students in fall 2023. He will teach three separate one-month special topics courses in literature and serve as a consultant for curriculum review in the department.