Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English, Emeritus, is the author of a new book, Greenhorns: stories, published Oct. 10 by Leapfrog Press.
Slotkin writes more personally in Greenhorns than in his past nonfiction books, in a series of linked semifictional stories based on his ancestors’ immigration from Eastern Europe early in the 20th century.
A kosher butcher with gambling problems; a woman whose elegant persona conceals unspeakable horror; a Jewish Pygmalion who turns a wretched orphan into a “real American girl”; a boy who clings to his father’s old-world code of honor on the mean streets of Brooklyn; the “little man who wasn’t there,” whose absence reflects his family’s inability to deal with their memories—these tales of early 20th-century Jewish immigration blur memoir and fiction, recovering the violent circumstances, the emotional costs of uprooting that left people uncertain of their place in America and shaped the lives of their American descendants.
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Ann duCille, professor of English, emerita, will deliver the third annual Richard Slotkin Lecture in American Studies titled “TV and the ‘Thug Default’: Why Racial Representation Still Matters.” Her talk is open to the public and begins at 4:30 p.m., Oct. 26 in the Powell Theater.
“TV and the “Thug Default”: Why Racial Representation Still Matters” revisits such constructs as the “superpredator” and such cases as the “Central Park Five” in tracing the meaning, use and blackening of the term “thug.” Arguing that image is ideology—that what we see on the TV screen colors how we see black boys on the street—the talk tracks the rise of law-and-order programming that figures the black male as a dark menace to society. It demonstrates how televisual image making in compulsively stigmatizing the colored Other functions as a deadly form of racial profiling. The final section of the paper revisits the blame-a-brother racial ruses of Charles Stuart and Susan Smith as closing examples of how the racial logic of black guilt continues to influence both popular culture and public policy and also uses a riff on the Broadway musical Hamilton and the TV drama This Is Us to suggest ways of doing difference differently.
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In light of President Trump’s tweeted ban on transgender Americans serving in the military, Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of English and American Studies, Emeritus, writes in The Conversation about the long history of integrating minorities into the U.S. military.
The armed forces have long “played a vital role in shaping American social policy toward the country’s minorities,” Slotkin writes. He recalls how “fear and resentment” of African-Americans and immigrants from Asia and Europe “generated a political backlash,” resulting in oppressive Jim Crow laws and an anti-immigrant movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Then, “The crisis produced by American entry into World War I brought these movements up short. Suddenly the nation had to raise an army of millions from scratch, with the utmost speed. There was no way to achieve that goal without enlisting large numbers of African-Americans and immigrants or “hyphenated Americans,” a derogatory term for immigrants first used at the turn of the century. It was in this crisis that American leaders rediscovered the ideals of civil equality that late 19th-century ethno-nationalism had called into question.”
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Richard Slotkin appeared on PBS’s American Experience April 10-11.
Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of English, emeritus, was featured in a PBS American Experience special, “The Great War,” on April 10.
“It’s a watershed in American history. The United States goes from being the country on the other side of the ocean to being the preeminent world power,” says Slotkin in Chapter 1 of the series.
In Chapter 2, Slotkin appears beginning around 15 minutes.
“When Wilson declares war, the total armed trained force of the United States is less than a quarter of a million men,” he says. “The British Army loses more than that in one battle.”
“In order to just enter the war at all, the United States has to raise from nothing an army of millions. But they can’t rely on volunteering because it just would take too long. So they realized that they needed to have some kind of draft.”
The American Studies Department will host the inaugural lecture in the annual Richard Slotkin American Studies Lecture Series from 4:15 to 6 p.m. in the Powell Family Cinema in the Center for Film Studies. Slotkin, the Olin Professor of American Studies and English, emeritus, will speak on “Thinking Mythologically: Black Hawk Down, Platoon, and the War of Choice in Iraq.”
In his more than 25 years at Wesleyan, Slotkin helped establish both the American Studies and the Film Studies programs. He is regarded as one of the preeminent cultural critics of our times, and is the author of an award-winning trilogy on the myth of the frontier in America, as well as three historical novels. In 1995, he won the American Studies Association’s Mary C. Turpie Award for his contributions to teaching and program-building.
Light refreshments will be served after the lecture.
Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of English, Emeritus, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (Photo by Bettina Hansen/Hartford Courant)
Richard S. Slotkin, the Olin Professor of English, Emeritus, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Established in 1780 by John Adams and other founders of the nation, the Academy undertakes studies of complex and emerging problems. Its membership of scholars and practitioners from many disciplines and professions gives it a unique capacity to conduct a wide range of interdisciplinary, long-term policy research. Current projects focus on science and technology; global security; social policy and American institutions; the humanities and culture; and education. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.
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Richard Slotkin was featured in The Hartford Courant. He is the author of the book No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864, published by Random House. (Photo by Bettina Hansen/Hartford Courant)
Cultural historian Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of English, Emeritus, is featured in an Oct. 25 Hartford Courant article titled ” Wesleyan Professor Sees 1864 Civil War Battle As Microcosm Of Racial Divide.” The article focuses on Slotkin’s most recent book , No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864.
The title of the book references one of the battle’s major controversies, which Slotkin addresses unsparingly: It was Confederate policy to take no black prisoners, resulting in summary executions of POWs on both sides.
Slotkin says his fascination with the battle goes back to his interst in the Civil War.
“I’ve always seen it as the watershed in American history. It’s the event that really produces the country that we are now: big, unified, industrialized, interested in the whole question of equality, what it’s about, what race is about, what’s the power of the federal government,” he says in the article.
Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of English Emeritus, is the author of the book, No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 published by Random House on July 21.
No Quarter is a dramatic recount of one of the Civil War’s most pivotal events — the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864.
At first glance, the Union’s plan seemed brilliant. A regiment of miners would burrow beneath a Confederate fort, pack the tunnel with explosives, and blow a hole in the enemy lines. Then a specially trained division of African American infantry would spearhead a powerful assault to exploit the breach created by the explosion. Thus, in one decisive action, the Union would marshal its mastery of technology and resources, as well as demonstrate the superior morale generated by the Army of the Potomac’s embrace of emancipation. At stake
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