Agnieszka Tuszynska, Associate Professor in the English Department, has been awarded a $60,000 National Endowment of the Humanities fellowship

Published: February 16, 2024

Agnieszka Tuszynska in a library with a book in hand and framed photo

Dr. Tuszynska received the fellowship through the awards for faculty program for her research and writing for a critical biography of novelist Willard Motley entitled: A Damn Hard Fight: The Life of Willard Motley.

While largely neglected today, Motley was once a prominent figure in both his native Chicago and nationwide. His fame was brought about by the publication of his best-selling novel, Knock on Any Door (1947), which was later turned into a film starring Humphrey Bogart.

"For a few years following the novel’s publication, Motley was a key contributor to the literary and political conversations of the time, including topics such as the social role of writers, racial discrimination, police brutality, capitalism and poverty, juvenile delinquency, and the persecution of leftists."

Dr. Tuszynska began studying American literature as a college student at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, where she was first introduced to African American literature.

“My research interests include Harlem Renaissance literature and the literature of the Jim Crow Era, prison writing, and immigrant literature. However, currently, all my efforts are directed towards piecing together Motley’s life and giving him the attention he deserves.”

Originally from the town of Solec Kujawski, in Poland, Dr. Tuszynska now resides in Woodside, Queens and has taught English at Queensborough for eleven years.

“It became clear to me that CUNY and Queensborough, with their culturally diverse student population, were a perfect fit for me. New York is such an incredible city because of the ethnic/cultural mix.”

She attended Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, to pursue her master's degree. Dr. Tuszynska then continued studying the topic as a PHD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and chose it for her dissertation project.

“I believe that studying literature allows everyone involved--students and professors alike--to enjoy some of the best aspects of being human. Apart from teaching at Queensborough, for many years I also taught in a prison as a volunteer with the College Justice Program, which I helped to found. That activity was put on hold by the pandemic, but I intend to return to teaching incarcerated students in the future.”


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