Writing Cultural History Today: A Symposium on the Publication of A New Literary History of America

Werner Sollors, Greil Marcus and Harvard University Press cordially invite you to Writing Cultural History Today, a two-day symposium on the occasion of the publication of A New Literary History of America (www.newliteraryhistory.com).  The event will take place at the Barker Center for the Humanities on Friday, September 25 and Saturday, September 26, and will consist of panels and discussions exploring specific themes and issues raised by the content and nature of this groundbreaking project.  In addition, we will be hosting such cultural activities as a screening of Preston Sturges' classic Sullivan's Travels at the Harvard Film Archive on Friday night (followed by a discussion with Greil Marcus, Werner Sollors and Haden Guest) and a Saturday afternoon reception, exhibition and musical performance at Harvard Square's historic Club Passim.  We hope you will join us for a weekend devoted to debates about American cultural history, written and living, against the scenic and stimulating backdrop of Cambridge in autumn.  Space will be limited, so please take a moment to register using the link above if you plan to attend this exciting event, and check this site periodically for more event updates and announcements. 

A broadly cultural undertaking co-edited by Marcus and Sollors for Harvard University Press, A New Literary History of America features 216 newly-commissioned essays penned by nearly as many contributors, each focusing on a crucial moment in the “making” of America and addressing not only literature but music, film, art, history, history of science, philosophy, and political rhetoric. There are entries on Ann Bradstreet, Phillis Wheatley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, W. E. B. Du Bois, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene O’Neill, Jean Toomer, William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, Robert Lowell, Flannery O’Connor, Philip Roth, and Toni Morrison, but also on Stephen Foster, the invention of the telephone, the Winchester rifle, Steamboat Willie, Alcoholics Anonymous, Porgy and Bess, the first issue of Life, the atomic bomb, Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and Ronald Reagan’s speech at the 1964 Republican Convention.  Visit our website at www.newliteraryhistory.com to access some sample entries.

Preliminary Event Schedule

Friday, September 25

9:30AM: Welcome reception with coffee and breakfast, opening remarks by Diana Sorensen, Dean for Humanities, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

10AM -11AM: Visual Culture and Literary History (Hillary Chute, Robin Kelsey, and John Stauffer, moderated by Yael Schacher)

11AM-12:00PM: Cultural History Tomorrow: New Media and Popular Culture (Glenda Carpio, Jack Hamilton, Hua Hsu, and Wayne Marshall)

2:00 -4:00PM: 20 Questions with Greil Marcus, Werner Sollors and Lindsay Waters (Moderator: Homi Bhabha; Questioners: Lawrence Buell, Glenda Carpio, Lizabeth Cohen, Alexander Keyssar, and Judith Tick) 

4:30PM-6PM: Making New Literary History: Contemporary Authors (Clark Blaise, Bharati Mukherjee, Lan Tran, and David Treuer, moderated by Brian Hochman)

7PM: Film screening of Sullivan’s Travels (dir. Preston Sturges, 1941) with Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors at the Harvard Film Archive* 

Saturday, September 26

9:30AM: Opening remarks by William P. Sisler, Director of Harvard University Press, and Lindsay Waters, Executive Editor for the Humanities at Harvard University Press

10:00AM-11:30AM: History and Literary History: A Roundtable Discussion (Joyce Chaplin, Peter Galison, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Jill Lepore, and Ted Widmer, moderated by George Blaustein)

11:30AM-12:30PM: Literary History through Drama and Film (David Pendleton, Danny Rubin, Robert Scanlan, and Stephanie Zacharek, moderated by Nicholas Donofrio)

1:30PM-2:45PM: Poetry and Cultural History (Steve Burt, Helen Vendler, recorded poetry from the Poetry Room at Harvard, and a reading by Frank Bidart)

3PM-5:30PM: Reception at Club Passim, 47 Palmer St. in Harvard Square (click link to purchase tickets)*

* - indicates ticketed event.  Unfortunately, we cannot offer advance ticket sales to the Harvard Film Archive screening, and all sales will take place at the door (tickets are $10). 


Support for this event has been generously provided by the Provostial Fund in the Arts and Humanities at Harvard University, along with the departments of English, History of American Civilization, African and African American Studies, History and Literature, History, and the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History. 

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