First Friday 2007–2010

To review events 2011 and forward,  please see First Friday Events .


Friday, 3 December 2010 | John Wells
“Samuel Beckett’s Negations: Tragedy, Comedy, and Subjectivity In Endgame

My presentation will explore how Samuel Beckett’s Endgame interrogates aesthetic forms of meaning by negating the traditions it inherits from literature, theology, and philosophy.  That negation discloses the “messianic light” that according to Theodor Adorno provides the only responsible form of philosophizing in a postmetaphyical world, a world “after Auschwitz,” as Adorno would have put it, in which the potential for catastrophe without a means to redeem it seems ever-present.  I will demonstrate how Beckett explodes entire systems of philosophical discourse (particularly Existentialism) and the criteria for drama that he inherits, not for the sake of mere negation but to present the meaning of modern meaninglessness, that is, of philosophy’s failure to preserve qualitative experience within its explanation of the world.  The play’s nonidentical relationship with conventions from tragedy and comedy compels reflection on what adequacy those forms might once have possessed and why they prove inadequate for the modernist and postmodernist world.  The value of Beckett’s work, I contend, lies in its exploration of how the aesthetic forms that have established the possibilities for what we can mean may be rendered thematic—that is, how form can become content and compel conceptual mobility in the audience that enables them to witness what value a category like redemption can possess when the theological and aesthetic forms upon which drama has relied have grown inconsistent with the empirical world.  Redemption’s value for such a culture becomes apparent in the nostalgia for nature voiced by Beckett’s characters who seem to mourn a nature with which they could have had a harmonious relationship even as they fear the possibility of other life and seem only to await their own deaths.  That nostalgia within the play for a state the characters might never have known implicates the messianic visions of this play that might have initially seemed only to wallow in a postapocalyptic landscape of debris.


Friday, 5 November 2010 | Tim Glenn
“Representing Race, Property and Reconstruction in Peter Matthiessen’s
Killing Mister Watson

In my presentation I will contend that Peter Matthiessen’s 1990 novel Killing Mister Watson creates an alternative history of post-Reconstruction South Florida by using a mix of oral narratives, journal entries and newspaper clippings. Rather than accepting a view of the past comprised of one monolithic voice, Matthiessen’s text argues that the past can be more fully understood by recognizing those voices that have traditionally been marginalized. By giving authority and agency to the historical accounts of not only white settlers, but also African Americans and American Indians in the American South, Matthiessen’s text’s depiction of post-bellum battles over race claims and land claims amidst the ruins of the Civil War and Reconstruction gives minority voices an equal stake in the creation of historical narratives.


Friday, 1 October 2010 | Kathy Graber
“In-Dwelling: Stephen Dunn in Deadwood”

The title of my presentation plays with the titles from one of Dunn’s collections, Local Visitations, in which he resurrects 19th Century writers in small southern New Jersey towns (“Twain in Atlantic City,” for instance). My presentation attempts to move toward a better understanding of the particular way moral concerns manifest themselves in Dunn’s work and argues that the pursuit of the uncomfortable truths constitutes the core of his aesthetics. It does this not only by looking at some poems and prose by Dunn but also by employing the David Milch HBO series as a pop cultural illustration of such an aesthetics in action and using a few small bits of Heidegger for intellectual grounding.


Friday, 9 April 2010 | David Latané
“Being and Event — Browning and Schlegel in the 1830s”

Browning’s first three books (excluding the anonymous Pauline) are probes of historical characters (the chemist and mage Paracelsus, the courtier Earl of Strafford, the poet Sordello of Mantua). In each case Browning conjures interior action crucial yet invisible to history. This paper will look at what he’s up to by taking into consideration both the contemporary historiographical ideas of Friedrich Schlegel’s Philosophy of History (trans. in the 1830s) and also the theories about event stemming from Alain Badiou’s work.


Friday, 5 March 2010 | Patty Strong
“OMG! Texting Toward Illiteracy?: LOL. Why Social Writing Trumps School Writing”


Friday, 12 February 2010 | James Kinney
“The Battle of the Books: Literature and Race in 19th Century America”

From 1830 to the Civil War and again from 1877 to World War I, race became a dominant motif in American literature. Around 1830, major changes took place both in the need to defend slavery and in the effort to abolish it. A number of genres developed rapidly: 1) Plantation Romances; 2) Abolition Novels; 3) Anti-Abolition Texts; 4) Slave Narratives; 5) Revolutionary Works—all attempting to define blacks and the institution of slavery.

After the War and Reconstruction, in response to the “Negro Problem” white writing tended to group into three essentialist racial “mentalities” identified by historian Joel Williamson: 1) White Liberal Mentality; 2) White Conservative Mentality; 3) White Radical Mentality; while in ever increasing numbers 4) Black Voices articulated the struggle of emancipated African Americans to define themselves. In both eras, literature did much to construct the lived reality.


Friday, 19 February 2010 | Madge Dresser
“Gentility, Slavery and the “Other” in an Eighteenth–century English City”

Bristol, Britain’s second city for much of the eighteenth–century, is famed as the home of Thomas Chatterton, Robert Southey and Hannah More. It was also a prominent slaving port and a focus for the “West Indian” trade. How did its economic position and social structure affect the writings of abolitionist authors there ? What role did such authors, their lesser-known contemporaries, and the local press play in formulating attitudes towards Africans and other “outsiders” in the city? This presentation will draw upon primary historical research to consider these questions.


Friday, 4 December 2009 | John Brinegar
“My soule bitake I unto Sathanas’: Parodic Witchcraft in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale”

Absolon kissing Alison’s bottom is one of the high points of the comedy of the Miller’s Tale; in its context, though, it is something more.  Fifteen lines after the description of the kiss, Absolon makes a conditional pledge of his soul to Satan.  In my presentation I will argue that this conjunction of an anal kiss with pledging a soul to Satan echoes medieval descriptions of a witches’ sabbat; since witches were seen primarily as heretics, this echo amplifies the parodic religious undertones of the Miller’s Tale.

My presentation begins by tracing the history of the obscene (anal) kiss from accounts of the Cathar heresy through fourteenth-century descriptions of witches’ activities.  Throughout this period, the obscene kiss is seen as the action marking a heretical declaration of allegiance to Satan; it is essentially a mark of heresy, and only secondarily a mark of witchcraft.  By Chaucer’s time, though, the obscene kiss appears as a standard issue in witch trials such as that of Edward IV’s mistress Alice Perrers.

My presentation then turns to Absolon’s unintentional obscene kiss, which is a means of marking Absolon as an amorous “heretic” whose love is undesired because of the way in which he offers it; in his comic oath of frustration, Absolon unwittingly confirms his heresy.  He follows this oath with an action of maleficia (the burning of Nicholas’ bottom) having an effect, though not a means, commonly attributed to witches.  The deployment of these signs of heresy and witchcraft thus adds another strand to the religious parody of the Miller’s Tale.


Friday, 6 November 2009 | Rivka Swenson
“Vulnerable Subjects: Theorizing the Eighteenth-Century Gaze”

In eighteenth-century visual theory, the object of the gaze is not the one who is seen but the one who sees; such a notion feels counter-intuitive to readers who have naturalized the theory of the dominant/male gaze. Eighteenth-century optical theories drew on an intromissionist (Aristotelian) model of vision to insist that the eye receives impressions via particulate rays that proceed from objects. Bodies enter bodies; particles intrude through eye-windows, affecting the ontologies of seeing subjects. Such subjects are not agents; eighteenth-century seeing subjects cannot be understood as proper subjects, since they are not the source of action. If “physical objects give rise to our perceptions,” then, in grammatical terms, the seeing subject is the object—not of another’s gaze but of another’s seen being. Putative objects of the gaze, empowered within prevailing optical discourse, act upon the vulnerable, penetrable subject, vigorously entering its apertures “with a motion,” Isaac Newton explains, “like that of an Eel.” Accordingly, Jonathan Swift’s male gazer in his meta-satirical poem “The Lady’s Dressing Room” hardly experiences dominion over the forbidden territory into which he trespasses. Celia’s belongings—because of what Bill Brown would call their “thingness,” their force as a sensuous, metaphysical presence—are totemic versions of Celia’s body, and it is in this capacity that they undo the peeping Strephon. Swift’s suggestive caution “To him that looks” bespeaks grave anxiety about the dangers of the (male) gaze within a cultural and scientific milieu wedded not to the idea of the “eye/penis” (to borrow a phrase from Janet Todd’s reading of Freud) but to an idea expressed by John Taylor’s 1761 parsing of Newton: “the Eye,” Taylor avers, “is a Female.” As we shall see, such sentiments pervade a culture that was obsessed with the dialectics of vision in light of new optical technologies (prism, telescope, microscope, Claude glass, sash window).

In this talk, I will propose that we reorient our thinking about the politics of the visual field in eighteenth-century optics and in literary representations of visual exchange. As explored by John Locke, George Berkeley, and the venerable Newton, the relationship between seeing, knowing, and being during the period exceeds post-Freudian equations between sight and agency; in fact, a vast body of scientific, popular, and belles-lettrist discourse challenges latter-day assumptions about the primacy of the (masculine) seeing subject. I’ll use this time to discuss how vision is theorized and represented in the early modern period and the eighteenth-century, and I’ll offer a practical application of the crucial reorientation I’m proposing through readings of “The Lady’s Dressing Room” and Mary Wortley Montagu’s poem “Epistle to Bathurst.”


Friday, 2 October 2009 | Nick Sharp
“Adrift in the Drunken Boat: A Briefe and True Report
of the New Found Land of Digital Poetics and NewMedia Literature”

Because the term “electronic literature” is so widely misconstrued, this presentation will open with a definition of the term and three brief examples intended to suggest the nature of the field. The presentation will then argue that these new kinds of literature pose a significant challenge to the conventional, print-oriented notions of “reading,” requiring serious modifications in the received methods of criticism and interpretation. The core of the presentation, however, will be a consideration of three short works from Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (“The Last Day of Betty Nkomo,” “Bust Down the Doors,” and “Miss DMZ”) intended to suggest how these Flash animated texts both remediate established habits of reading and yet achieve traditional literary effects.


Friday, 3, April 2009 | Kathy Bassard
“Toni Morrison’s Virginia”

In my presentation I will trace Morrison’s use of Virginia as not only geographical space, but as a trope for the contradictions of American race relations.  In the course of my presentation I will discuss Morrison’s new novel, A Mercy, which is set in 17th Century Virginia and Maryland.


Friday, 6 March 2009 | Gretchen Comba
“The Art of Atonement: The Jewish Character in William Maxwell’s ‘Haller’s Second Home’ and ‘With Reference to an Incident at a Bridge’”

In addition to his six novels, one memoir, and one volume of essay-reviews, William Maxwell published sixty-three stories between 1936 and 1999 in magazine publications. Of these stories, forty-nine originally appeared in The New Yorker, and fourteen originally appeared in the magazines Life and Letters To-dayHarper’s BazaarThe Cornhill MagazinePerspectives U.S.A.,PaxThe Paris ReviewAntaeusTamaquaStoryNew England Review, and DoubleTake. In addition, the story “Remembrance of Martinique,” which originally appeared in the British journalLife and Letters To-day, was revised and reprinted in The Atlantic Monthly; and the story “The Front and Back Parts of the House,” which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was reprinted alongside the previously unpublished story “The Old House” in Tamaqua. Including these reprints, Maxwell’s short fiction appears in magazine publications sixty-five times. Although Maxwell published two volumes of stories, two volumes of fables (one printed privately), as well as one volume of collected stories, many of the stories first published in magazines never appeared in any of these collections, and some, when they appeared in a collection, were reprinted under different titles or as revised texts, the revisions ranging from the slight to the substantial. Among these stories is “Abbie’s Birthday,” which first appeared in the August 1941 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, and was later re-titled “Haller’s Second Home,” as well as substantially revised, to ultimately appear in the 1977 collection Over by the River and Other Stories. In this presentation I will examine the substantial revisions made to this story in order to argue that Maxwell’s inclusion of a distinctly Jewish character in the later version suggests that in the thirty-six year span between the publication of the first version and the publication of the last version Maxwell’s consciousness with regard to Jewish ethnicity, as well as the social prejudice that Jews face, grew into the need for atonement evident in his 1984 story “With Reference to an Incident at a Bridge.”


Friday, 6 February 2009 | Sachi Shimomura
“Chivalric Stasis, or the Walking Dead in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale

While historians agree that medieval chivalry was balanced between historical and literary ideals, and that literature influenced the history of chivalry at least as much as historical actions provided a basis for chivalric ideas, the literary implications for chivalry have not been adequately historicized in studies of how medieval romances stabilize chivalry—and thus recreate it within a historical vacuum: often an actual rejection of historicity. In my presentation, I will examine how Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale rejects historicity through its manipulations of narrative setting and time, and a chivalric world that seems repeatedly to stop in its tracks.

Ideas of chivalry evolved in society and literature throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but also thus displayed complementary elements of stasis and obsolescence. Chaucer, through his Knight and the Knight’s Tale, evokes and enacts literarily such unstable stasis.   The characters in the tale, in particular, represent dead and dying traditions, preserved through the anachronisms of the story, in which, at the broadest level, medieval knights joust in ancient Athens under Theseus’s watchful eye. Even as the knights themselves uphold ideals of chivalry, their actions come to occupy a temporal limbo—a realm of stasis, of deferrals, and of narratives that seem to forget or ignore their own origins.   The two Theban knights who pursue the lady Emelye, in fact, enter the tale as nearly dead knights within a pile of dead bodies; this liminal status continues through their constantly deferred deaths.  The Tale thus enacts a stasis matching the stasis of the chivalric ideals.

My presentation is part of an overall project on narrative stasis and its production of narrative temporalities that defy historicity for ideological reasons.  The stasis of the Knight’s Taleresembles what A. S. Byatt, through a narratologist character in her novelette “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” (1994),   terms the “stopped energies” in the life of Griselda, heroine of another of the Canterbury Tales.  Such energies held in stasis establish a broader Chaucerian interest in the power of interrupted changes/lives/ideals, reminiscent of an even broader medieval context: the fascination with the stopped lives and perpetually (and statically) preserved bodies of saints.   For late medieval society, was stasis a basis of ideological power?


Friday, 5 December 2008 | David Coogan
“Strip Poker: A Writing Workshop at the City Jail”

In my presentation I will describe a writing workshop in autobiography that I taught at the Richmond City Jail. The goal of the workshop was to trace the roots of criminal behavior and write your way beyond it—what one of the writers characterized as a game of strip poker. A closely related goal was to address a public unaccustomed to thinking about the complex causes of crime or the challenges of rehabilitation and reentry. After contextualizing these project goals within rhetorical theory and pedagogy, I read from the manuscript, Strip Poker, which dramatizes the workshop sessions and features the men’s life stories. \


Friday, 7 November 2008 | Richard Fine
“Covering D-Day:  the Media and the Military during “The Good War”

In the past several decades we have witnessed any number of military conflicts large and small  (Vietnam, Granada, Panama, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq among others) in which relations between the media and the military have been fraught, to say the least.  The press, the public and the military all look back nostalgically to World War II, when the armed forces and the media were reassuringly assumed to be “on the same side.” Seeking to clarify a subject about which much is assumed but little actually documented, I have begun exploring the institutional mechanisms within the U.S. Armed Forces that governed the work of war correspondents during World War II, focusing on the invasion of Normandy and subsequent battle in the summer of 1944 that culminated in the liberation of Paris in late August. Surprisingly, no authoritative study exists of military censorship during World War II, and so at the most basic level this is a project of recovery. That reconstruction, though, has yielded some intriguing complexities and contradictions.

This presentation reports on my initial research into the records housed in the National Archives and other repositories as well as the published accounts of a number of the reporters, broadcasters and military personnel who participated in the Battle of Normandy. I question the commonplace notion that correspondents in World War II willingly acted as a virtual adjunct of the American armed forces, uniformed and unapologetic “cheerleaders” for the Allied cause. Unsurprisingly, historical reality seems to have been far more nuanced.  While journalists rarely balked at censorship for reasons of military security, for example, they did much more frequently object to what they perceived as “political” censorship. Competitive pressures among news organizations, between reporters and broadcasters, and between the national media of the Allies also led to demonstrable frictions between the media and the military.  My research to date indicates that during the Second World War relations between reporters and their armed forces handlers were more antagonistic—and that the American public was less well served by the media—than is commonly asserted by those who wish to draw a clear distinction between World War II reporting and that in more recent conflicts.

That said, the combination of the strict censorship system and the press’s willingness (with notable exceptions) to abide it led to a distinctive style of war reporting focused on the stoic heroism of the common soldier, and best exemplified by Ernie Pyle’s dispatches. Contemporary press coverage of D-Day and the Battle for Normandy, then, established a prevailing view of that campaign and its prosecution which romanticizes and glorifies the “citizen-soldier” and which connects with the more recent interpretation of D-Day (in the works of historian Stephen Ambrose and the films of Steven Spielberg) that is dramatically ethnocentric and self-congratulatory—the notion that the United States Army, made up of amateur, reluctant warriors, was both morally and militarily superior to its enemies.


Friday, 3 October 2008 | Kate Nash
“The Politics of Romance in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Detective Fiction”  

As a theorist andwriter of Golden Age detective fiction, Dorothy L. Sayers knew the famous rule against introducing a love interest into a mystery: “[T]he less love in a detective-story, the better…. A casual and perfunctory love-story is worse than no love-story at all, and since the mystery must, by hypothesis, take the first place, the love is better left out.” I will argue that when Sayers decided to let her series detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, fall in love, she managed to succeed where other novelists had failed. In the novels featuring Peter’s beloved Harriet Vane, Sayers uses formal narrative techniques to communicate her first-wave feminist politics. Politicizing the romance between Harriet and Peter, and making her narrative progression depend on the reader’s provisional acceptance of certain feminist beliefs for the duration of the novels, allows Sayers to balance the generic demands of romance and mystery, while avoiding the usual negative consequences of combining the two.


Friday, 2 May 2008 | Gary Sange
“Comic Surrealism”

Abstract: What’s comic that isn’t absurd, isn’t satirical, isn’t amusing—isn’t even funny? What happens when we want our humor to be as crazy as the world? Can “Comic Surrealism,” even the humorously grotesque, stir us to imaginative compassion? Using examples from the films Harold and Maud, Being There , and Dr. Strangelove , from Paul Simon’s song “Call Me Al,” and from the comic-surrealist poetry of Charles Simic and Frank O’Hara, we will move towards a partial understanding of the following question: What is “surrealism” beyond “weird,” beyond its definition of “Beyond Reality”?


Friday, 4 April 2008 | Les Harrison 
“Never flitting, still is sitting”: Poe’s Raven and the Problem of Mass Culture

Abstract: In his 1845 essay, “Anastatic Printing,” Edgar Allan Poe looks with hope toward the advent of new communication technologies which would democratize the publishing process, freeing the author from the control of the publisher, allowing him to “arrange his pages to suit himself, and stereotype them instantaneously, as arranged” interspersing “them with his own drawings, or with anything to please his own fancy, in the certainty of being fairly brought before his readers, with all the freshness of his original conception about him.” The liberatory rhetoric is, no doubt, familiar to scholars of the World Wide Web and the assorted “new medias” of the past fifteen years.

Yet while the web and its allied medias have worked to bring an abundance of Poe “pages” before a wide variety of readers, the quality of “freshness,” of “original conception,” remains elusive.  On the one hand, the “popular” Poe pages continue to present gothic and macabre images of the author: Poe as the American Byron.  On the other hand, more “scholarly” sites, and, in particular, the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, while more sensitive to the multivocal properties of Poe’s authorial voice, subsume this multivocality beneath a valorizing rhetoric dedicated to “celebrating” the author’s achievement.  In both cases, the visitor to the site is denied an “original” or “fresh” relationship to Poe insofar as their experience of the author and his works is mediated by these competing conceptions of Edgar Allan Poe.

Focusing on the widely-reprinted and frequently-illustrated poem “The Raven,” this paper will examine Poe’s deep ambivalence towards the visual technologies characteristic of an emerging mass culture over the course of the nineteenth century.  While Poe’s critical writings emphasize an aesthetics centered around the poetic creation of “supernal” beauty and “indistinctness,” his most successful poems and tales repeatedly offer their readers spectacular images—the “stately Raven,” enshrouded figure of Madeline of Usher—in order to compete for the attention of a readership newly awash in the proliferating images of an increasingly visual culture.


Friday, 1 February 2008 | Winnie Chan
“Sarah Josepha Hale and the Proto-Post-Colonial Rhetoric of the Thanksgiving Menu”

Abstract: In the October 1857 number of Godey’s Lady’s Book, editor Sarah Josepha Hale augured that “[t]he Day of Thanksgiving would . . . soon be celebrated in every part of the world where an American family was settled.” The exuberance of her editorial belies the fact that Hale had been making the same appeal for months, and would continue to do so from her “Editor’s Table” until October, 1863, when President Lincoln, attempting to hold together a nation torn by Civil War, would make his famous Thanksgiving Declaration. In fact, Hale had been advocating a day of thanksgiving for a glorious “Yankee nation,” united North and South, since before 1827, as editor of several increasingly influential ladies’ magazines. Moreover, in her cookbooks and, perhaps most fundamentally, in her first novel, Northwood (1827), she would set down the now-familiar menu, described in strikingly militaristic terms. A stalwart abundance of American meat, for instance, serves “as a bastion to defend innumerable bowls of gravy.” As for the holiday occasioning such dazzling gluttony, it, “like the Fourth of July,” is a “national festival” to be “observed by all people.”

This presentation interrogates the Thanksgiving menu as the unstable, edible reification of a nationalist rhetoric, which self-consciously promoted (and revised to include distinctly British foods) the first “fusion” meal between the pilgrims and the Wampanoag as the first post-colonial cuisine. However fictional, the now-familiar Thanksgiving foods stabilized an imagined community, the shared spectacle of their common, private consumption solidifying a society in violent transition. As patriarchal and racist as it is patriotic, Hale’s nationalization of this regional feast constitutes an unlikely, early manifestation of what Salman Rushdie famously declared “the Empire writ[ing] back.”


Friday, 7 December 2007: | Gretchen Souderland
“Journalist or Panderer? Investigating and Framing Underage Web Cam Sites”

Abstract: If the television brought images of the outside world into the home, web camera technology potentially inverts this trend by transmitting activities in the home to outside viewers.  Over the last two years, there have been a number of high-profile cases of teenagers utilizing their home computers, web cameras, and other web-based commercial establishments like PayPal to establish and conduct their own home-based interactive Internet pornography businesses. This presentation will consider recent journalistic and public policy discourses surrounding these sites–often run surreptitiously out of minors’ rooms–especially the uneasy representation of teens as simultaneously stars, victims, producers, perpetrators, and entrepreneurs. I argue that what is being produced is not only a classic narrative of underage victims and adult perpetrators but also a new set of complex social and legal relationships enabled by and embedded within these new technologies.


Friday, 2 November 2007 | Susann Cokal
“Turning Cold Hard Facts into Technicolor Lies”

Abstract: A discussion of some of my research—into, among other things, miracles, Mormons, wet-nursing, medieval sculpture, Victorian painting, frontier prostitutes, the technology of the greenhouse, Munchausen by Proxy, tuberculosis, sixteenth-century gynecology, and the history of the needle—that has led to two books, Mirabilis (2001)and Breath and Bones (2005), and The Kingdom of Little Wounds, a novel-in-progress set in Renaissance Scandinavia.


Friday, 5 October 2007 | Joshua Eckhardt 
“Manuscript Verse Collectors and the Politics of Anti-Courtly Love Poetry”

Abstract: The early modern collectors of John Donne’s manuscript verse accomplished much more than scholars have recognized. Manuscript experts and editors have shown that these collectors made Donne the most popular poet in the manuscripts of the period, and in several cases recorded more authoritative texts than did printers and publishers. Yet, by focusing exclusively on Donne’s poems, editors in particular have taken them out of their immediate contexts in manuscript books, most of which feature great numbers of other poets’ works as well. In their poetry anthologies, or miscellanies, manuscript verse collectors regularly opposed Donne’s most popular and sexually explicit poems, such as “To his Mistress going to bed,” to courtly love lyrics, like those that Sir Walter Ralegh purportedly wrote for Elizabeth I. In so doing, collectors effectively consolidated the hitherto unrecognized poetic genre of anti-courtly love poetry. Employing methods that distinguish them from better-known literary agents (such as authors, stationers, and even readers), manuscript verse collectors came to exhibit this overlooked genre as both the aesthetic and the ideological antithesis to the Petrarchan lyrics that Ralegh and others had associated with the late Elizabethan court.


Friday, 2 February 2007 | Laura Browder 
“If This Is Tuesday, it Must be Montgomery:  or, Adventures in Documentary Film Making”

Abstract: In the early 1970s, the Klansman and former Wallace speechwriter Asa Carter reinvented himself as the Cherokee author Forrest Carter–and wrote a bestselling “memoir” about his childhood.  I’ll be showing the twenty-minute promo of Gone to Texas: The Lives of Forrest Carter, a documentary based in part on my book Slippery Characters, and talking about my work as a writer and co-producer of the film.

Laura Browder’s talk was recorded and subsequently published in the spring 2007 issue of Blackbird: on online journal of literature and the arts


Friday, 2 March 2007 | Marcel Cornis Pope 
“Interplaying National and Transnational Perspectives in post-1989 Literary History”

Abstract: The break-up of the bipolar world system in 1989 has removed the traditional ideological polarizations between East and West, “first” and second” world, but has to some extent replaced them with nationalistic and ethnocentric perspectives that promote new cultural divisions. Under these circumstances, the input of a mediating consciousness is needed now more than ever. By comparing, translating and interfacing cultures, this type of consciousness can help us rediscover that middle ground between Eastern and Western, dominant and peripheral that we have neglected because of our polarized worldviews.

Post-1989 comparative literary history can help us reconstruct that middle ground of intercultural coexistence, emphasizing “transference,” “translation,” and “cultural contact.” The multifaceted landscape of East Central Europe, punctuated by multicultural and minority discourses, is an especially fertile ground for a transnational literary history that, while not neglecting the points of conflict, will foreground the conjunctions and crossings between cultures. I test these claims on examples taken from the History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe, a multi-volume work I am currently co-editing with John Neubauer.


Friday, 6 April 2007 | Nick Frankel
“The Designer’s Eye: Ornament and Poetry in the mid-Victorian Period”

Abstract: This will be a presentation about the relation between graphic design and poetry in a specific text—John Murray’s 1841 edition of J. G. Lockhart’s “Ancient Spanish Ballads,” as the epitome of a certain kind of ornamented literary text that was especially popular at the beginning of Victoria’s reign. I shall begin by generalizing about early Victorian fascination with a Romanticized Orient (which, for the Victorians, included Southern Spain) as well as the penchant for gorgeously illustrated “picturesque” books that accompanied early Victorian developments in graphic reproduction. But essentially I shall be reflecting on the interdependency of design and text in this edition—and by impliciation, on what the Victorians have to teach us about the interpendency of mind, eye and the reading “senses.”