Lost in the City: An Exploration of Edward P. Jones's Short Fiction


On June 24, 2016, I was in Washington, DC, and had the opportunity to meet Edward P. Jones, a writer I’ve studied for years now. My graduate school mentor and dissertation advisor Maryemma Graham arranged the meeting, and the three of us met at Old Ebbitt Grill’s happy hour. After placing our orders, Jones described the route he took to the restaurant.

His description stood out to me because just like his short stories, he paid keen attention to place-based details by describing streets he passed and specific bus routes. Relatively few literary scholars get the opportunity to meet authors who are central to their research. The chance to have dinner with a Pulitzer-prize winning novelist is even rarer. So I was especially grateful to spend an extended amount of time talking Washington, DC and teaching Black literature with Jones and Graham.

For some time, I’ve been a fan of Jones’s short fiction. His stories were a large part of my work as a graduate student. So naturally, when given a chance to teach a graduate seminar, I gravitated towards Jones. This publication represents my on-going efforts to encourage other scholars and general readers about the importance of Jones’s short fiction.  -- Kenton Rambsy 

This project was truly an interdisciplinary collaboration. There are many people who contributed to this project; however, there is one particular person who was the consistent heartbeat and kept everything on track. This publication is dedicated to Margaret Jackymack—the administrative assistant of the English Department at the University of Texas at Arlington. Mrs. Jackymack, better known as Margie, facilitated the internal structure of this publication by making sure vendors and research assistants were paid in a timely fashion. Margie’s contributions to this project were so important, and we greatly value her efforts.

Peace Ossom-Williamson’s contributions to this project made all of the difference. Thank you for agreeing to be a part of this project and working with me as an editor. All of the brainstorming sessions greatly contributed to the final product. Certainly, my students and I could not have done this without you.

The two student editors, Jade Harrison and Lauren Phelps were invaluable to this project. As a professor, to watch you both take the initiative and guide your peers through the intellectual and technical aspects of this project was rewarding. I’m excited to see the types of contributions you both make to the field of English and Digital Humanities in the future.

We are especially thankful for having a bright and inquisitive group of students during the Fall 2017 semester. Thank you all for your diligent work on a different type of final project. Ahmed Foggie, thank you for your contributions and taking the lead on the ArcGIS visualizations. Also, thank you to UTA professor Charlie Travis for working with Ahmed and helping him troubleshoot through various issues. Together, you all both helped to bring Jones’s DC to life as we were able to map various coordinates from his stories.

DC photographer Bernadette Dare provided amazing pictures for this project. Thank you Bernadette for capturing pictures from actual neighborhoods and landmarks found in Jones’s stories.

Throughout the project there are various student videos. Jay Park served as the videographer for this project and worked hand-in-hand with students in the class to create videos that captured our unique perspective of Jones’s short fiction.

DC native and local business owner Desmond Handon was responsible for consulting and doing other graphic work for the project. Thank you for helping us to construct our dataset by clarifying the parameters of DC and distinguishing between real and imagined environments. Your help was invaluable for constructing the datasets and editing maps.

We are so grateful that university officials at UTA support new and exciting research initiatives such as this project. This publication, in part, was made possible by an iLASR Seed grant generously funded by UTA’s College of Liberal Arts. We are truly grateful for the support.

Last, but certainly not least, we'd like to give a special thanks to the Publishing Without Walls Family, especially Drs. Ronald Bailey and Marilyn Thomas-Houston. Thank you for believing in our vision and guiding us through the project from the planning phases to the actual publication. More specifically, thank you for giving our students the opportunity to work on a digital publication. We are forever grateful to Daniel Tracy who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make this entire process enjoyable. Truly we are grateful for all of your contributions. 

The future of Black Studies and Digital Humanities looks extremely bright!

Thank you for reading, 

Kenton Rambsy & Peace Ossom-Williamson

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