Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thursday, April 2: Trish Loughran, "The Grave at the End of the Poem: Whitman Printed, Photographed, and Waxed"

The American Studies Consortium,
with support from the Nineteenth Century Forum
and the Poetry and Poetics Workshop
presents a lecture by

Trish Loughran
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“The Grave at the End of the Poem:
Whitman Printed, Photographed, and Waxed”

Thursday, April 2
3222 Angell Hall
4 PM

Reception to follow. Everyone is welcome!

ABSTRACT: Recent shifts in communications technologies have made pre-digital print culture come into view as a discrete object of historical study—a five hundred-year-old fossil that, because its time has largely passed, is now subject to the monumentalizing archival impulse to define, to classify, to contain—to name and know fully.  In this talk, I will think about what it means to look back on 19C print culture from the other side of the great digital divide.  In particular, I consider a range of Walt Whitman’s work in the context of the nineteenth century’s ceaseless technological innovations across a number of materials forms, printed and otherwise—from handpress printing to photography and (early) voice recording—all forms Whitman explored and experimented with between around 1840 and 1892. Using the example of Whitman to produce both a “reading” of his corpus and a meditation on historicist method, I want to think about both the “ontology” of print—its irreducible ‘printedness’—and how that squares with a more materialist approach that takes the micro-fissures of historical detail into account.

Trish Loughran is Associate Professor of English & History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on the connections between art, history, politics, and communications technology from the early Enlightenment to the present. She is the author of The Republic in Print: Print Culture in the Age of U.S. Nation Building, 1770-1870 (Columbia UP, 2007), which was awarded the Oscar Kenshur Book Prize in Eighteenth-Century Studies.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March 19 & 20: Two events with Bruce Burgett

You are warmly invited to attend two events with

Bruce Burgett
Professor and Dean of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Washington, Bothell
Co-director, Graduate Program in Public Scholarship, Simpson Center for the Humanities

“Keywords for American Cultural Studies:
What Do (Print-Digital) Keywords Do?”
Thursday, March 19
3222 Angell Hall
4 PM

Drawing on his experience co-editing Keywords for American Cultural Studies (NYU Press 2007/2014), Burgett will discuss what makes keyword projects different from other forms of academic presentation and other means of approaching questions of interdisciplinary field formation.  In contrast to encyclopedias and reference works, Keywords aims not to codify the state of scholarship in discrete fields called American studies and cultural studies, but to catalyze interdisciplinary conversations across those fields and others.  In both print and digital formats, keyword projects encourage authors and users to think critically and creatively about the genealogies and futurologies of terms and concepts.

UM faculty members June Howard (Chair of the Department of American Culture and Professor of English, American Culture, and Women’s Studies) and Kevin Gaines (Professor of History and Afroamerican and African Studies), will join Professor Burgett to discuss questions of methodology, pedagogy, and technology.


“Why Public Scholarship Matters in Graduate Education”
Friday, March 20
3184 Angell Hall
11 AM

Please join Professor Burgett for a discussion of his recent Pedagogy article on public scholarship, co-authored with Miriam Bartha. Coffee and bagels will be provided.


Drawing on nearly a decade of experience at the University of Washington, the authors argue for a reorientation of graduate curricula and pedagogy through publicly engaged forms of scholarship. Recognizing that the claims mobilized around public scholarship are necessarily local and situational, they suggest that public scholarship is best understood as organizing language that can align and articulate convergent interests rather than standardize or normalize them. This approach to public scholarship cuts against the disciplinary-professional mandates of most graduate curriculum since it requires both diversified forms of professionalization and pragmatic commitments to institutional change.

The article is available for download here.

Bruce Burgett is Professor and Dean in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, Bothell, graduate faculty in the Department of English at the University of Washington, Seattle, and co-director of the Graduate Certificate in Public Scholarship program at University of Washington’s Simpson Center for the Humanities.  He is the author of Sentimental Bodies: Sex, Gender, and Citizenship in the Early Republic (1998), and co-editor, with Glenn Hendler, of Keywords for American Cultural Studies. Professor Burgett has published multiple scholarly articles on sex and nation in early America, as well as essays on interdisciplinary education, cultural studies, and public scholarship. A past President of the Cultural Studies Association, Professor Burgett currently serves as Chair of the National Advisory Board of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life.

Sponsored by the American Studies Consortium, Reorientations, and the Department of American Culture

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Thursday 2/19: Chapter workshop with Prof. Julian Levinson

Please join the American Studies Consortium for a book chapter workshop and lunch with Prof. Julian Levinson:

"'The Seventh Angel Woke Me': 
Adah Isaacs Menken 
and the Return of Israelite Prophecy"

Thursday, February 19
3241 Angell Hall
12 PM

Lunch will be provided. RSVP to by Tuesday, February 17.


This chapter is part of my current book project, tentatively titled New World Israelites: Reshaping Jewish Identity in Protestant America. The book considers emblematic instances where Jewish and Christian cultural works have engaged with prevailing religious discourses, establishing specifically American ways of reading Jewishness. In particular, the book traces the lines of influence connecting Protestant biblio-centrism to ideas about modern Jews. From this perspective, modern Jewishness comes to be modeled on the image of the “Old Testament prophet” – a figure imbued with a divine mission to correct the world’s moral failings and to strengthen the bonds uniting the “chosen people,” however defined.

The chapter under discussion, “’The Seventh Angel Woke Me’: Adah Isaacs Menken and the Return of Israelite Prophecy,” explores an emblematic case of these cultural and religious dynamics. Here I explore the prophetic-Jewish self-invention of a Baptist-born woman who became the nation’s most celebrated and notorious stage performer of the 1860s. Drawing on discourses ranging from Reform Judaism, sentimental Protestant poetics, and Whitmanian poetic forms, Menken wrote a series of free-verse poems from the perspective of a “prophet of Israel.” These works establish a model of modern Jewish identity that will be picked up in numerous subsequent works by Jews in America.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Friday, February 6: William J. Maxwell, "F.B. Eyes"

William J. Maxwell
Washington University in St. Louis

“F.B. Eyes”
[How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature]

Friday, February 6
3222 Angell Hall
4 PM


Interested graduate students and faculty are also warmly welcomed to join Professor Maxwell earlier that day for a discussion of his accompanying project, the F.B. Eyes Digital Archive, an online collection of FBI files on African American authors and literary institutions obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Professor Maxwell will answer questions related to the creation and curation of digital archives, and on working with archival material more broadly.

3154 Angell Hall
12.30 PM

A light lunch will be provided. RSVP to

Few institutions seem more opposed than African American literature and J. Edgar Hoover’s white-bread Federal Bureau of Investigation. But behind the scenes the FBI’s hostility to black protest was energized by fear of and respect for black writing. Drawing on nearly 14,000 pages of newly released FBI files, F.B. Eyes exposes the Bureau’s intimate policing of five decades of African American poems, plays, essays, and novels. Starting in 1919, year one of Harlem’s renaissance and Hoover’s career at the Bureau, secretive FBI “ghostreaders” monitored the latest developments in African American letters. By the time of Hoover’s death in 1972, these ghostreaders knew enough to simulate a sinister black literature of their own. The official aim behind the Bureau’s close reading was to anticipate political unrest. Yet, as William J. Maxwell reveals, FBI surveillance came to influence the creation and public reception of African American literature in the heart of the twentieth century.

Taking his title from Richard Wright’s poem “The FB Eye Blues,” Maxwell details how the FBI threatened the international travels of African American writers and prepared to jail dozens of them in times of national emergency. All the same, he shows that the Bureau’s paranoid style could prompt insightful criticism from Hoover’s ghostreaders and creative replies from their literary targets. For authors such as Claude McKay, James Baldwin, and Sonia Sanchez, the suspicion that government spy-critics tracked their every word inspired rewarding stylistic experiments as well as disabling self-censorship.

Illuminating both the serious harms of state surveillance and the ways in which imaginative writing can withstand and exploit it, F.B. Eyes is a groundbreaking account of a long-hidden dimension of African American literature.

A PDF of Introduction to F.B. Eyes is available here.

F.B. Eyes will be available for sale and signing at the 4 PM talk.

William J. Maxwell is associate professor of English and African American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of New Negro, Old Left: African-American Writing and Communism between the Wars and the editor of Claude McKay’s Complete Poems.

Sponsored by the American Studies Consortium and the Department of American Culture.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Conference Q & A for graduate students

Conference Opportunities in American Studies:
a graduate student advising session

Tuesday, January 20
3222 Angell Hall
4 PM

When should you start thinking about conferences? Which should you apply to? Where do you find CFPs and funding? How do you write an engaging abstract and paper? What makes a memorable presentation? Is “networking” worth your while?

The American Studies Consortium warmly invites fellow graduate students working on the history, literature, and culture of the Americas to a peer advising session on navigating academic conferences. Advanced graduate students from the departments of American Culture, English, and History will briefly speak about their experiences attending and presenting at major conferences in their fields, and invite your questions at an informal Q & A session on all aspects of the conference process.

While this session will be geared in particular to conferences relevant to American Studies, it is also intended to provide a friendly forum on finding, applying to, and presenting at academic conferences more generally. Everyone is welcome!

Light refreshments will be provided.