Day Ten:

Friday, June 28
The Persistence of Historical Memory


We will conclude our reading of primary texts with a discussion of the invocation of photography and memories of the Civil War in Harold Frederic's little read novella, "Marsena" (1894). In this novella, situated in a fictitious town in western New York, the titular character photographs townspeople before encountering them again on a fateful battlefield. The key questions about the persistence of romantic perceptions of small towns and the mixed motives that lead humans to participate in idealistic causes will form a useful conclusion to the attention we have paid to literature and social reform as the engines of cultural production in western New York.

In the afternoon, members of the group will present their seminar projects. These presentations will encourage reflection and a commitment to future projects, such as conference panels or a special issue of a journal. We will also encourage attention to the visual materials at both Kroch library and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, where participants will have the opportunity to view works by contemporary visual artists such as Kara Walker that comment on and expand the themes of the course. Their graphic images of cultural survival from slavery provide the visual counterpart of the projects that participants will carry out as they extend the lessons of the course toward classroom goals and writing assignments. The afternoon session will be followed by a closing reception at the Andrew Dickson White House, former home of the first president of Cornell whose scrapbooks of Civil War materials were part of the visit to Kroch library the previous week.

Tentative Readings:

Harold Frederic, "Marsena" (1894)

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Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this seminar do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

View of the Erie Canal by John William Hill (1829)