Past Program

Sep 24 - Sep 28, 2010

American Studies Symposium -To Honor Emory Elliott: "American Literary History in a New Key"


Emory Elliott's career both spanned and helped define the changes in the literary canon and in the ways we approach cultural texts that have characterized American studies during these years before and after the turn of the 21st century. When Emory went to college, a book like 12 American Authors was standard for courses on American literature. Today, an American literature anthology will have as many as 94 authors in its first volume; apart from texts deriving from tribal origins. Then, we focused almost entirely on the formal qualities-structure, metaphor, irony-of a discreet number of works. Today, we think about the world from which texts emerged and to which they spoke, and how they speak differently to people now, differently situated as we are. Then, we read almost exclusively white and almost all male authors: Hawthorne, James, Hemingway; today, we read a rainbow spectrum of writers from the four corners of the globe: Bharati Mukherjee, Francisco Goldman, Maxine Hong Kingston, Naguib Mahfouz. And today's writers, critics, and teachers, encouraged by the example of intellectual leaders like Emory Elliott, deal with subjects that range from borderlands to imperialism, from the performance of gender to the shape of the book, from the "problem of the color line" to the quest for indigenous nationality.

This symposium not only celebrates Emory Elliott's life and work. It gives us an opportunity to consider where American literary history is now, a decade into the 21st century, and where the study of culture might be heading in a world threatened by environmental degradation and wild disparities in wealth, shadowed by menacing changes in educational institutions, and marked by the transnational flow of money, people, and cultures. We cannot write tomorrow's books today, but we will bring to bear on the future of American literary study the powerful development of new ideas about ecocriticism, gender and critical race studies, globalization and immigration shock on how we write and think about the literature of the past and to come.

Download the 2010 American Studies Symposium Registration Form here

Information about the American Studies Network-funded scholarship