Now that the spring weather seems to have (finally) reached us here in Worcester, everyone is beginning to get out and partake in all of those activities they put off during the winter, including cultural events. We hope that our spring lineup of public programs at Antiquarian Hall—including the one tonight—will be among those that make it on to your springtime calendar!
“Dreaming up a Nation Forever on the Move: The Strange Quest for the ‘Great American Novel’”
By Lawrence Buell
Tuesday, April 22, at 7:00 p.m.
Co-sponsored by the Franklin M. Loew Lecture Series at Becker College
There have been hundreds of candidates for the Great American Novel in the nearly 150 years since John William DeForest first introduced the idea, but why have these books been contenders for this title? What do claims of being the GAN really mean? In this lecture based upon his recently published book The Dream of the Great American Novel, lecturer Lawrence Buell charts the history of the quest to write the Great American Novel and then uses this history as a platform for exploring some of the characteristic ways that GAN candidates have acted as explorations and reference points for imagining a national identity.
Buell is Powell M. Cabot research professor of American literature at Harvard. He has written and lectured worldwide on American fiction, on the Transcendentalists and their legacies, and on the environmental humanities. His books include Literary Transcendentalism (1973), New England Literary Culture (1986), The Environmental Imagination (1995), Writing for an Endangered World (2001), and Emerson (2003).
“‘Slavery in the Bowels of a free & Christian Country:’ People of Color and the Struggle for Freedom in Revolutionary Massachusetts”
By Thomas Doughton
Tuesday, May 13, at 7:00 p.m.
Co-Sponsored by Africana Studies at the College of the Holy Cross
Regional people of color submitted three important petitions to the provincial legislature: one calling for an end of slavery in the colony, another asking that former slaves be transported back to Africa, and a third that the legislature set aside lands in the western part of Massachusetts for former slaves. This presentation will explore the relationships of people of color in central New England as “A great number of Negroes …detained in a state of Slavery” to an emerging political discourse of revolutionary freedom and racial equity in rural Massachusetts.
Thomas Doughton is the senior lecturer at the Center for Interdisciplinary and Special Studies at the College of the Holy Cross. Doughton specializes in the history of people of color and their relationships with whites in Central New England.
(This program is being presented as part of the Worcester Revolution of 1774, a celebration of Worcester County’s overthrow of British Authority seven months before the fighting at Lexington and Concord. For further information about this project see http://www.revolution1774.org/)
“Sifting the Uneven Archive: Researching The Forage House”
By Tess Taylor
Thursday, May 29, at 7:00 p.m.
In this program, poet Tess Taylor will recount how a residency here at the AAS helped her as she researched and wrote her latest book of poems, The Forage House. Her poems layer oral histories, documents, and folksongs to craft an exploration of her ancestors—a mix of New England missionaries and Southern slave owners, including Thomas Jefferson. Taylor’s poems are as much about the imperfect material of family stories as they are about the politically charged material of history.
Taylor’s poetry and nonfiction have appeared in The Atlantic, Boston Review, Harvard Review, Literary Imagination, The Times Literary Supplement, and The New Yorker. She currently reviews poetry for NPR’s “All Things Considered” and teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley.
“On the Trail of the ‘Heathen School’: Local History, American History, and World History”
By John Demos
Tuesday, June 10, at 7:00 P.M.
This lecture will be based on Demos’s newly published book unraveling the forgotten story of a special school for “heathen youth” brought to New England in the early nineteenth century from all corners of the earth. Located in the little town of Cornwall, Connecticut, this uniquely fashioned institution embodied an early version of what we now call American exceptionalism: convert them, educate them, civilize them, then send them back to found similar projects in their respective homelands, and the world will be saved in the shortest time imaginable. After a seemingly brilliant beginning, however, the plans ran afoul of racism—when some of the heathen students courted local women. The result was scandal, widespread controversy, and permanent closure of the school. Demos will also reflect on the process of his research, including his time as a distinguished scholar at the Antiquarian Society and his visits to places central to the story.
John Demos is the Samuel Knight professor of history emeritus at Yale University. Demos’s award-winning books cover topics ranging from family life in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, to witch-hunting in the Western world, in such works as A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony (1970), the Bancroft Prize-winning Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (1982). Demos is a member of the American Antiquarian Society and was the AAS-Mellon Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence during the 2012 calendar year.