Maia Butler

September 10, 2019

Maia Butler loves those moments in the classroom that take her and her students by surprise. That’s when new discoveries and connections are made, and where interesting intellectual exchanges happen.
“I love teaching literature because it opens up new worlds to students. It’s amazing to see the connections they make to popular culture and the history they already know and the creative approaches they take to broadening their contexts for reading,” said Butler, an assistant professor of African American literature in the Department of English.
Those special moments almost didn’t happen. Butler had planned to apply to law school after completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Instead, a course on the novels of Toni Morrison put her on a different path. 
“I wanted to be in the classroom discussing Morrison’s work for the rest of my life,” she said. 
Before joining UNCW in 2017, Butler taught at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for six years while completing her master’s degree and doctorate. She studied African American and diasporic literature because of its rich body of work. Co-founder of The Edwidge Danticat Society, she is currently editing a collection of essays about the Haitian-American writer’s work.
“I focus on black women writers because their work represents so many facets of life that are missing from history with a capital ‘H,’ from popular culture and from so many syllabi,” Butler said. “The work I do with my students allows us to fill in these gaps.”
Butler noted that through her interactions with students she has learned the importance of grace and flexibility.
“Students show me that when they are given the room to find their own ways, learn about their own working processes and explore new ways of collaboration, their contributions to the classroom discussions and course work are so rich,” she said. “I’m absolutely lucky to be doing something that I love deeply.”
-- Venita Jenkins