I’ve been teaching in the UConn English Department since 2004. I write and teach in Childhood studies, American literature, African American Studies and Disability Studies.
-What is the project you’re currently working on?
A book called Strange Place Blues: Growing up in a Slave Nation.
-How did you arrive at this topic?
I came across an 1822 skit where a nine-year old African American boy chastises another little boy for tardiness as part of a public examination at the The New York African School and I was hooked. On one level, this was a very small moment–just a school performance with two young kids talking about the importance of schoolwork. Really, it’s not terribly different that something you might find at a school assembly today. But once I started investigating, it became clear how this small moment had incredibly large implications. Much of the ideology underlying the American Revolution, and the concept of citizenry it engendered, depended on the capacity for citizens to be born equal, and to come to rationality through education. Thus the question of whether black children could partake in education was vital. These small children were exemplars, held up as evidence by both anti-slavery forces. Their school performances were covered by local newspapers, and their schoolwork held up at national conferences as evidence of African American equality, and of slavery’s deep injustice.
My book explores the work of the school by tracing the lives and works of two of its most famous almuni, James McCune Smith and Henry Highland Garnet. James McCune Smith was the first African American to earn a medical degree and Henry Highland Garnet was the first African American to address Congress. In particular, I focus on how they imagined the black child in their lives and work as they wrestled with questions of national belonging, of education, and of possible futures. I’m also keenly interested in how these political figures were deeply influenced by the experiences of black children who came into their own lives, whether it was their own children, New York city orphans, child fugitives from slavery, or in one case, a young African held up as a scientific specimen. Ultimately, I argue, that finding ways to cultivate and celebrate children as political and cultural actors was central to the work of black abolitionism, and later black political thought, in ways we haven’t really engaged as fully as we need to.
-What impact might your work have on a larger public understanding of your topic?
We’re in a moment where the very meaning of education is under stress. We are struggling to define what it is supposed to accomplish, and by extension, what we imagine a good citizen should know. Both students and educators often feel overwhelmed by definitions that they had very little input in creating, and that might feel alien to what they really want to learn. My project seeks to learn from African American children themselves as they worked–and ultimately thrived– within systems that didn’t believe that they could ever become citizens in the first place. In doing so, I hope to open up new ways of appreciating the capacity of children to be active participants in their own education, and to be political advocate
The winner of the inaugural Sharon Harris Book Award is Associate Professor Micki McElya for her 2016 book,
The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery.
The book award committee, chaired by Professor Peter Baldwin and including Professors Natalie Munro, Chris Vials, Janet Pritchard, and Rosa Chinchilla said this about their selection:
The Sharon Harris book award honors not only the legacy of Dr. Sharon Harris, but also the legacy of the humanities in general by recognizing a book that "demonstrates scholarly depth and intellectual acuity and highlights the importance of humanities scholarship." Dr. Micki McElya’s book The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery does all of this and more. The book traces the history of Arlington National Cemetery from a plantation worked by slaves to a symbol of national honor and pride. Its finely detailed early chapters engage the social history of slavery, and the conflicting understandings of race and gender during and after the Civil War. The story proceeds to explore the use of the cemetery as a site where ideas of nationhood, citizenship, and inclusivity were worked out in the twentieth century. Clearly written, meticulously researched, and keenly attuned to significant social contradictions, The Politics of Mourning tells a story of national importance that will engage the interest of general readers as well as scholars. Thus, it serves to remind the public of the value of humanities scholarship in American life.
Harvard’s book page: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674737242
Dr. Micki McElya was a finalist:
- for the Pulitzer prize: http://www.pulitzer.org/finalists/micki-mcelya
- and the American Civil War Museum literary awards: https://acwm.org/learn-and-do/awards-and-recognition
In partnership with the Dodd Center, and E.O. Smith High School, Humility & Conviction in Public Life hosted a National Issues Forum (NIF) Moderator Training designed to introduce participants to the concepts, skills, and issues associated with moderating and recording public deliberations that could facilitate intellectually humble dialogue. This was followed by a forum with students and faculty from E.O. Smith High School. Run by Glenn Mitoma (Dodd Center), and planned in collaboration with Joe Goldman (E.O. Smith) and Brendan Kane (HCPL), the forum considered the issues of food justice and security, making use of the brand new NIF Guide:Land of Plenty: How Should We Ensure that People Have the Food They Need?.pdf
There were over 130 E.O. Smith students, and was facilitated by UConn undergrads, graduate students, staff, and UConn and E.O. Smith faculty.
Martha J. Cutter, Professor of English and Africana Studies, received a CLAS book fund award
My book, The Illustrated Slave: Empathy, Graphic Narrative, and the Visual Culture of the Transatlantic Abolition Movement, 1800–1852 (University of Georgia Press 2017) centrally concerns the way the enslavement was represented in both pro- and anti-abolitionist visual materials such as illustrated books, cartoons, posters, broadsides, paintings, lithographs, and other print culture artifacts. Due to this content, the book contains over 80 black-and-white illustrations and 16 color ones. The CLAS book fund was instrumental in bringing the book into print in the form in which I envisioned it because the grant was used to offset some of the expense of color illustrations in the text. Because the illustrations—especially the color ones—are integral to the argument I make in the book as a whole about how abolitionism used visual material, some part of my argument would have been lost without the financial support of this fund. I cannot stress enough how helpful this fund was in bringing the manuscript into print in the form in which I envisioned it, and with the argument intact. I strongly urge others who have manuscript support needs to apply through the simple and straightforward process the CLAS Book Fund has established.
The Illustrated Slave:
Empathy, Graphic Narrative, and the Visual Culture of the Transatlantic Abolition Movement, 1800–1852
Martha J. Cutter
The University of Connecticut
From the 1787 Wedgwood antislavery medallion featuring the image of an enchained and pleading black body to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) and Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave (2013), slavery as a system of torture and bondage has fascinated the optical imagination of the transatlantic world. Scholars have examined various aspects of the visual culture that was slavery, yet an important piece of this visual culture has gone unexamined: the popular and frequently reprinted antislavery illustrated books published prior to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) that were utilized extensively by the antislavery movement in the first half of the nineteenth century.
This book discusses some of the more innovative works in the archive of antislavery illustrated books published from 1800-1850, alongside other visual materials that depict enslavement, such as broadsides, paintings, comics, and abolitionist pamphlets. Martha J. Cutter argues that some illustrated antislavery narratives—such as those by Henry Bibb and Henry Box Brown—contain a radical reading protocol that stresses interrelationship with the enslaved rather than separation between a white and black viewer. By contrasting these works with Stowe’s more famous illustrated book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), she argues for a seditious visual presence in antislavery discourse—one that portrays the enslaved as obtaining a degree of control over narrative and lived experiences, even if these figurations entail a sense that the story of slavery is sometimes beyond representation itself.
Available in August from Amazon:
Or the University of Georgia Press:
Co-sponsored with the UConn Bookstore and UCHI
Come on down for our ever-popular reading series showcasing an open mic and featured readers! Bring a poem, short prose piece, or music to share at the open mic; enjoy coffee, tea, and snacks with other members of the UConn Creative Writing community. Everyone is welcome.
Jameson Croteau is an eighth semester undergrad pursuing an English and Business Management dual degree with concentrations in Creative Writing and Entrepreneurship. His poetry has been published in The Slag Review and his nonfiction and fiction will be published in the 20th anniversary edition of the Long River Review. Eventually, he intends to undertake an M.F.A and write historical fiction about the American Revolution and coming of age tales centered in the mill cities of New England.
Kerry Carnahan is pursuing doctoral studies in English at the University of Connecticut, where she is preparing a new translation of the Song of Songs with commentary. An urban environmentalist, former Fulbright Scholar, and MacDowell fellow in 2013, her poetry has appeared in Poetry Ireland, The Missouri Review, and is forthcoming in Boston Review.
Ciaran Berry is a 2012 Whiting Writers’ Award winner. His full-length collections are The Sphere of Birds (2008), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, the Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, and the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize, and The Dead Zoo (2013), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. His work has been featured in The Best of Irish Poetry, Best American Poetry, Pushcart Prize XXXIII: Best of the Small Presses, and Best New Poets, as well as in journals such as AGNI, Ecotone, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, The Missouri Review, and The Southern Review. He grew up in Connemara and Donegal in the west of Ireland, and currently teaches in the creative writing program at Trinity College in Hartford, where he lives with his wife and two young sons.
Finalist: The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery, by Micki McElya (Harvard University Press)
For a luminous investigation of how policies and practices at Arlington National Cemetery have mirrored the nation’s fierce battles over race, politics, honor and loyalty.
The University of Connecticut Humanities Institute is pleased to announce its UConn Residential Faculty and Dissertation Fellowship awards for 2017-18
- Deirdre Bair (English & Comparative Literature) – “Bio/Memoir: The Accidental Biographer”
- Rebecca Gould (Comparative Literature, Interdisciplinary Islamic Studies) – “Narrating Catastrophe: Forced Migration from Colonialism to Postcoloniality in the Caucasus”
UConn Faculty Scholars
- Eleni Coundouriotis (English) – “The Hospital and the State: Readings in Anglophone Fiction”
- Ruth Glasser (Urban Studies/History) – “Brass City, Grass Roots: The Persistence of Farming in Industrial Waterbury, CT, 1870-1980”
- Kenneth Gouwens (History) – “A Translation of Paolo Giovio’s Elogia of Literati”
- Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar (History) – “Becoming Atlanta; Political Power, Progress in the Capital of the New South”
- Nancy Shoemaker (History) – “A History of Soap: Oils, Chemistry, and the Rise of Global Composite”
- Harry van der Hulst (Linguistics) – “It Means What you See (But You Have to Look for It)”
UConn Dissertation Scholars:
- Jorell Meléndez-Badillo (History) – “The Lettered Barriada: Puerto Rican Workers’ Intellectual Community, 1897-1933”
- Sarah Berry (English – Draper Fellowship) – “The Politics of Voice in Twentieth-Century Poetic Drama”
- Alycia LaGuardia-LoBianco (Philosophy) – “Action-Guidance in Complicated Cases of Suffering”
- Laura Wright (English – Draper Fellowship) – “Prizing Difference: PEN Awards and Multiculturalist Politics in American Fiction”
Drawing on the work of Isabelle Stengers and Peter Sloterdijk, this paper concerns bubbles: time-bound, communities of breath, or atmospheres, pneumatic pacts of shared air. If, in the near future, explicit climate policy will become the foundation of community formation against (or with) increasingly hostile environs, then what do texts past, written from within an immediate and knowable precarity, offer us as we seek to imagine successive bubbles today? The “bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble” of Macbeth’s, extra-terrestrial witches, outside, beyond, or within the infrastructures of the world of the play, provides one place to think in these terms.
UConn Humanities Institute Presents:
WAR AND ITS MEANINGS
DAY IN THE HUMANITIES 2013: "SILENT SPRINGS" April 5, 2013
Student Union Theater, Storrs Campus - April 5, 2013 - DAY IN THE HUMANITIES: "SILENT SPRINGS" - Student Union Theater
In 1962 the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson radically altered the way in which people from around the world viewed their relationship with the environment. Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this work by Carson and look to the future. How can humanists and scientists come together to better interact with our environments from local, national, and global perspectives? Who has a voice in environmental decisions--and, as important, who does not? How do we learn from our past, effect our present, and safeguard our future?
Please plan to join us, this even is free and open to the public.