NYMASA Salon Talks

The New York Metro American Studies Association has announced its Fall 2014 Salon Talks; speakers are Peter Hales, Karen Weingarten, Kathy Knapp, and Jayashree Kamble.


The New York Metro American Studies Association has announced its Fall 2014 Salon Talks schedule.  Talks are held at 6:30 pm in the Faculty and Staff Lounge, on the 8th floor of the West Building, Hunter College at Lexington Avenue and 68th Street in New York.

For directions, more information, or to rsvp, contact Sarah Chinn at sarah.chinn@hunter.cuny.edu

Wednesday, September 9th, Peter Hales (University of Illinois, Chicago), Outside the Gates of Eden: The Dream of America from Hiroshima to Now.  

Exhilaration and anxiety, the yearning for community and the quest for identity: these shared, contradictory feelings course through Outside the Gates of Eden, Peter Bacon Hales’s ambitious and intoxicating new history of America from the atomic age to the virtual age.
Born under the shadow of the bomb, with little security but the cold comfort of duck-and-cover, the postwar generations lived through—and led—some of the most momentous changes in all of American history. Hales explores those decades through perceptive accounts of a succession of resonant moments, spaces, and artifacts of everyday life—drawing unexpected connections and tracing the intertwined undercurrents of promise and peril. From sharp analyses of newsreels of the first atomic bomb tests and the invention of a new ideal American life in Levittown; from the music emerging from the Brill Building and the Beach Boys, and a brilliant account of Bob Dylan’s transformations; from the painful failures of communes and the breathtaking utopian potential of the early days of the digital age, Hales reveals a nation, and a dream, in transition, as a new generation began to make its mark on the world it was inheriting.

Tuesday, October 14th, Karen Weingarten (Queens College, CUNY), Abortion in the American Imagination: Before Life and Choice, 1880-1940. 

Abortion in the American Imagination returns to the moment when American writers first dared to broach the controversial subject of abortion. What was once a topic avoided by polite society, only discussed in vague euphemisms behind closed doors, suddenly became open to vigorous public debate as it was represented everywhere from sensationalistic melodramas to treatises on social reform. Literary scholar and cultural historian Karen Weingarten shows how these discussions were remarkably fluid and far-ranging, touching upon issues of eugenics, economics, race, and gender roles.

Weingarten traces the discourses on abortion across a wide array of media, putting fiction by canonical writers like William Faulkner, Edith Wharton, and Langston Hughes into conversation with the era’s films, newspaper articles, and activist rhetoric. By doing so, she exposes not only the ways that public perceptions of abortion changed over the course of the twentieth century, but also the ways in which these abortion debates shaped our very sense of what it means to be an American.  

Wednesday, November 12th, Kathy Knapp (University of Connecticut), American Unexceptionalism: The Everyman and the Suburban Novel after 9/11.  

American Unexceptionalism examines a constellation of post-9/11 novels that revolve around white middle-class male suburbanites. Kathy Knapp demonstrates that these authors revisit this well-trod turf and revive the familiar everyman character in order to reconsider and reshape American middle-class experience in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and their ongoing aftermath.

If suburban fiction has historically been faulted for its limited vision, this newest iteration has developed a depth of field that self-consciously folds the personal into the political, encompasses the have-nots along with the haves, and takes in the past when it imagines the future, all in order to forge a community of readers who are now accountable to the larger world.American Unexceptionalism traces the trajectory by which recent suburban fiction overturns the values of individualism, private property ownership, and competition that originally provided its foundation. In doing so, the novels examined here offer readers new and flexible ways to imagine being and belonging in a setting no longer characterized by stasis, but by flux.

Thursday, December 11th, Jayashree Kamble (LaGuardia Community College), Making Meaning in Popular Romance Fiction: An Epistemology. 

Despite pioneering studies, the term “romance novel” itself has not been subjected to scrutiny. This study examines mass-market romance fiction in the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. through four categories: capitalism, war, heterosexuality, and white Protestantism to cast a fresh light on the genre. Adopting Michel Foucault’s idea of the ‘episteme,’ Jayashree Kamble argues that romance novels are a quintessentially twentieth and twenty-first century genre and rooted in the real world conditions (episteme) that correspond to the four elements above. As such, romance fiction provides a prismatic look at the struggles around globalization, ‘democratic’ armed aggression, heteropatriarchy, and historically Protestant values, particularly as understood by the genre’s readers and authors.