BREAKING & REMAKING American Literature Symposium
* Saturday 17 May, 2014 *
Faculty of English, University of Cambridge
PROF. DAVID BLIGHT (Yale University)
PROF. LAWRENCE RAINEY (University of York)
American literature has long taken creative energy from the overlap between the real and the imagined. From Columbus’s letter to Sant Angel, through Winthrop’s ‘city upon a hill’, to Emerson’s ‘poem in our eyes’, the American continent has been idealized as a literary utopia. Yet the riptides of historical crisis have always run counter to this idyllic conception. In 1782, de Crèvecoeur’s Farmer James lamented ‘the desolating consequences of a rupture between a parent state and her colonies’, and by 1865 the Civil War had devastated Whitman’s democratic vision. Writing after 9/11, Slavoj Žižek noted the troubling way in which the World Trade Centre disaster marked the cataclysmic collapse of fantasy and fact in modern American art.
In one form or another, American writers have always concerned themselves with the nation’s seismic shifts, with its ruptures and reimaginings. ‘Breaking & Remaking’ thinks about the resilience of American exceptionalism in the face of social, cultural and political upheaval.
Places are limited, and free registration is now open:
email firstname.lastname@example.org to register