Raised in Indianapolis, Professor Hutchinson received a B. A. from Brown University in 1975 (American Civilization) and then spent two years in the Peace Corps as a well-digger in Burkina Faso, West Africa. He came to IU on a fellowship for graduate work in English and American Studies, receiving the combined Ph.D. in 1983. From 1982 to 2000, he taught at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he chaired the American Studies Program for thirteen years and held the Kenneth Curry Chair of English. He also taught twice as Visiting Professor of North American Studies at the Universitat Bonn, Germany. In 2000 he returned to IU to accept the newly created Tarkington Chair in the English department.
Professor Hutchinson has taught and written on a broad range of topics in American literature and culture, beginning with Walt Whitman, but in the past decade has focused on the racial culture of the United States and African American Literature. He is particularly interested in how the black/white color line is reproduced in American cultural history, and in what is repressed or disavowed in the process of such reproduction.
Professor Hutchinson received National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships in 1988 and 1989-90, and the Darwin Turner Prize of the Modern Language Association in 1995 for work in African American literature. His second book, The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White, was nominated for numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize in History, and was a finalist for the Rea Non-Fiction Prize. His most recent monograph, In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Color Line (2006), earned many honors and awards, including the Christian Gauss Award of Phi Beta Kappa for outstanding literary scholarship, a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, Booklist Editor's Choice, Choice Outstanding Academic Title, Honorable Mention from the Association of American Publishers for scholarly biography, and a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize in Biography. He has won teaching awards at both Tennessee and IU.