Mark Schenker will take a reset in his ongoing lecture series on major American novels of the 20th century, which reached the late 1950s last fall. For this spring and summer, he will present two connected four-part series on eight American novels, all by critically acclaimed woman novelists. These series will be offered via Zoom with a bonus: the fourth and eighth sessions will be in-person in the Brubeck Room [as well as on Zoom] with a short reception after the lecture to chat with Mark and each other.
The titles span a full century and bring in considerations of race and ethnicity (African-American, Jewish-American, Native-American), and of immigration (from China, Central Europe, Mexico). And the settings of these stories represent a striking array of American cities, states, and regions: San Francisco and Chicago; Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Michigan; Tennessee and Florida.
Taken together, these works of fiction invite us to think critically about the limitations of the idea of The Great American Novel and to embrace the broadest meaning of the word pluribus (“many”) in the traditional American motto: E pluribus unum.
Attendees are not expected to read or reread all or even any of the novels, but a familiarity with them will of course make the lectures more meaningful. Here are the novels for each week:
- April 12 - My Antonia (1918), Willa Cather
- April 19 - Wise Blood (1952), Flannery O’Connor
- May 3 - The Woman Warrior (1976), Maxine Hong Kingston
- May 10 - Song of Solomon (1977), Toni Morrison
- June 8 - Housekeeping (1980), Marilynne Robinson
- June 15 - The House on Mango Street (1984), Sandra Cisneros
- June 22 - The Shawl (1989), Cynthia Ozick
- June 29 - The Night Watchman (2020), Louise Erdrich
Note: The Shawl (1989) is a novella that consists of two parts: “The Shawl” and “Rosa.” The two stories had earlier appeared separately under the same titles in The New Yorker
: “The Shawl” in 1980 and “Rosa” in 1983. The very short first story should not be confused with the two-story novella version published in 1989 under the same title (that is, The Shawl
). It is the latter, longer work that we will be considering.
No charge for the program. These lectures are made possible with the support of the Literary Series in Memory of Amy Quigley. Advance registration required. Register online or call 203-762-6334. Although Mark often makes cross-references, the lectures mostly stand alone. However, as a convenience, you will automatically be registered for all eight sessions. Please email Michael Bellacosa at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.