CHSS Distinguished Alumni

Dr. Melanie R. Hill

MA English '12

Dr. Melanie R. Hill is assistant professor of American literature in the Department of English at Rutgers University. Hill received her PhD in English literature with two graduate certificates in Africana studies and women, gender, and sexuality studies from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, a second master’s degree in literature from George Mason University, and a BA in English with a minor in Spanish from the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on the intersection of African American literature, music, and Black theology, and Hill is a reviewer for the Yale Journal of Music and Religion. She has written articles on Black feminism and the sermon as sonic art in James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, as well as Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald under the Religions Journal and Oxford University Press, respectively.  
Under contract with the University of North Carolina Press (UNC Press), her forthcoming manuscript entitled, "Colored Women Sittin’ on High: Womanist Sermonic Practice in Literature and Music" is an interdisciplinary analysis of the presence of Black women preachers in both twentieth and twenty-first century African American literature, music, and religion. This book will investigate how performance of the sermon is personified through the Black woman preacher’s emphasis on musicality, expressivity, thematic relevance, and improvisatory phrasing. Currently, Hill is an associate research scholar at Yale University and a visiting assistant professor at Yale Divinity School.  
In addition to her scholarship, Hill is a gospel soul violinist who has performed at the White House on two occasions under the Obama administration, the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the NAACP’s annual convention, the Apollo Theater in New York, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and other venues. She was featured on the syndicated talk show, Sister Circle Live on TV One and has performed on several occasions for Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple. Additionally, Hill was the featured violinist for Pope Francis’s Papal Mass during his historic visit to the United States.  
Hill is grateful for God’s blessings and remains focused on sharing inspiration through her Gospel violin and spreading scholarship along the intersections of literature, music, and theology.