WMU News

Lecture series highlights diverse American studies perspectives

Jan. 21, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- It's often said that America means different things to different people.

A chance to hear and discuss some of those different perspectives will be offered through this winter semester's American Studies Program lecture series at Western Michigan University.

The series, named "Diverse Perspectives/Diverse Approaches," is designed to explore the many facets of the American experience and to bring attention to WMU's American studies major and minor as well as American studies research.

All lectures are free and open to the public and will take place in the Lee Honors College lounge.

"We have an impressive group of speakers and a wide range of topics," says Dr. Brian Wilson, assistant professor of comparative religion at WMU and coordinator of the lecture series. "Over the next few months, we'll be addressing topics as diverse as homelessness, the impact of Native American culture on 'American' culture," and surrealist women painters of the Americas."

Wilson says the variety of lecture topics reflects the interdisciplinary nature of WMU's American Studies Program. In addition, he adds, it exposes University faculty and students to the diverse scholarship being done today in the American studies field.

The series kicked off Jan. 19 with a panel discussion called "Bigger Thomas and African-American Male Identity." The event was part of the University's week-long celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

The program began with WMU theatre students performing a scene from the University's production of "Native Son," which is based on the Richard Wright novel of the same name. The cast features Page Kennedy and Christopher Webb and currently is on tour, competing regionally for a chance to perform at the American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C.

Next up in the series is "American Art and Culture, circa 1900." This program will be presented 10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, by Dr. John Wilmerding, professor of American art at Princeton University.

Wilmerding is Princeton's Christopher Binyon Sarofim 1986 Professor in American Art and Visiting Curator in the Department of American Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He also will lecture on "American Art and Culture, ca 1900" at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25, at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art.

Other topics and speakers slated and the dates of these presentations are:

"Homelessness within Prosperity: Popular Imaginings, Everyday Practices and Social Policy in Massachusetts," which investigates how regional class inequalities are manifested and produced; Dr. Vincent Lyon-Callo, WMU assistant professor of anthropology; 3:30-5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 11.

"Native American 'Contributions' to American Culture," which questions the dichotomy between "American" and Native American culture; Dr. Jose Brandao, WMU assistant professor of history; 3:30-5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25.

"CLR James, the Research Methods of a Caribbean Pioneer in American Studies," which assesses this important historian's impact on the development of public intellectuals and American studies as a field; Dr. William Santiago-Valles, WMU assistant professor of communication and of black Americana studies and director of WMU's Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations; 3:30-5 p.m. Friday, March 10.

"Caught between Worlds: Surrealist Women Painters in the Americas," which explores the long-neglected role of women artists from the Americas; Dr. Irma Lopez, WMU assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures, and Dr. Gwen Raaberg, WMU professor of English and director of WMU's Center for Women's Studies; 3:30-5 p.m. Friday, March 24.

"American Studies and American Things," which focuses on the role of material culture and material analysis in the American studies field; Dr. Thomas J. Schlereth, professor of American studies and director of graduate studies in American studies at the University of Notre Dame; 3:30-5 p.m. Friday, March 31.

"Freedom's Bitter Taste: Frederick Douglass' Personal Narratives and the Heroic Slave," which examines the importance of Douglass' autobiographical writings in light of the changing historical contexts in which they were composed; Dr. Leonard Neufeldt, professor of American studies at Purdue University; 3:30-5 p.m. Friday, April 7.

For more information about the lecture series, contact Wilson at (616) 387-4361 or Dr. Katherine Joslin, director of the American Studies Program, at (616) 387-2086.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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