As part of her ongoing effort to chronicle African American literary culture at the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, Elizabeth McHenry has been focusing on African American bibliographies, which emerged as experimental knowledge structures that provided ways of mapping and making sense of an emerging and rapidly evolving canon of “Negro literature.” These bibliographies were not just “lists,” but exploratory documents, where black intellectuals thought critically and advanced arguments about the boundaries and contours of black literature and authorship.
Spring 2017 Events Include Second Conference on Rock ‘n’ Roll, Talks on Shakespeare’s Othello, Oysters, Viking Art
The National Humanities Center has announced its schedule of public lectures, exhibitions, and other events which touch on a wide range of topics. Events include lectures on Shakespeare’s Othello, portrayals of slavery and freedom across the Atlantic world, the history of the industrial oyster, and Viking art.
This talk explores connections between Shakespeare and freedom dreams in the African Diaspora. It first outlines a tension between the ways that “Shakespeare” and blackness have been valued in the 400 years since Shakespeare’s birth. It then gives examples of the ways that black writers and actors in the early twentieth century used Shakespeare when grappling with constructions of blackness and race in the United States.
This talk will explore the writings, drawings, paintings, prints, and sculpture produced by African, African American, African Caribbean, and Black British women and men, enslaved and free, living and working across the Black Diaspora over the centuries. Living and dying against a white racist backdrop that sought to destroy Black bodies and souls, they generated alternative art-making traditions and experimental writerly practices that constitute nothing less than “declarations of independence.”
The second installment of the public program Novel Sounds: American Fiction in the Age of Rock and Roll will be held at the Center on Friday, March 3, 2017. In conversations among another remarkable group of musicians, novelists, and scholars, we will explore the surprising reciprocity between the apparently irreverent form of rock and roll and serious literature. Novel Sounds II features panels on rock music’s roots in the ballad tradition as well as the influence of rock culture on contemporary fiction.
From the 1840s to 1910s, oysters flourished in the polluted estuaries of America’s industrial cities. Their rise and collapse are equally astonishing. Today, oysters are once again on the menu. But what was once a staple of the urban working poor, grown within the city, has become a luxury, produced in rural places. The rise and fall of oysters is a microcosm of changes in food production and consumption in the modern era. It can teach us what people ate, where food was produced and how the city became a place solely for consumers.
Mark Twain called Joan of Arc, in complete seriousness, “the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced.” Joan Hinde Stewart will discuss the historical Joan—her origins, clarity of purpose and gruesome death at the age of nineteen—along with the ways in which she has been imagined across the centuries and the myths that have grown up around her.
Over the past fifty years, folklorist William Ferris has documented Southern culture, compiling a remarkable archive of images and stories from the South’s most accomplished writers and artists. In 2013, he shared his collection in the acclaimed book The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists and his images have been subsequently featured in an exhibit of the same name, which travels this fall to the NHC. In his talk, Ferris will discuss these distinctive figures whose work has informed American notions of the South and Southerners.