"Biography, Print Culture, and the Archive: The Case of William Wells Brown," Friday, September 12, 3:30

August 19, 2014

The first meeting of the Washington Area Group for Print Culture Studies 2014-2015 series will take place on Friday, September 12th, from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. in the Woodrow Wilson Room (LJ-113), in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Dr. Ezra Greenspan will deliver a talk entitled “Biography, Print Culture, and the Archive: The Case of William Wells Brown.”

William Wells Brown (1814-84) -- pioneering African American novelist, playwright, historian, memoirist, and civil rights activist -- complained on the eve of the Civil War about the prevailing narratives of US history: "History has thrown the black man out ... You look in vain to George Bancroft and other historians for justice to be colored." In book after book, often crisscrossing genres in and between them, Brown dedicated himself to redressing what he considered the whitewashed record.

What can students of print culture learn from the example of Brown, a man of letters sophisticated in the uses and abuses, constitution, and politics of the archive? And how can the practices of biography complement and enrich the practices of the book historian and archival scholar? This talk will address such questions with the goal of fostering discussion about basic operating assumptions and procedures common among practitioners of book history.

Ezra Greenspan is the Edmund and Louise Kahn Chair in Humanities and Professor of English at Southern Methodist University. He is also a member of the founding board of directors of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP) and the founding co-editor, with Jonathan Rose, of Book History (active 1996-early 2014). The author of many works, Professor Greenspan draws his talk from his forthcoming biography, William Wells Brown: An African American Life (Norton, 2014).

Please join us for Dr. Greenspan's talk and for dinner afterwards.