Academic journal article MELUS

Katharine Newman, Mother of MELUS

Academic journal article MELUS

Katharine Newman, Mother of MELUS

Article excerpt

We were there at the beginning: Evelyn Avery, Dan Walden, and some eight other American literature professors who also taught and published American ethnic literature. I, Dan Walden, had taught Black literature at Penn State as early as 1967. I started to teach American Jewish literature in 1970. Evelyn had been teaching African American and Jewish writers and a course on comparative ethnic American literature at Towson. I'm not sure when I met Katharine (whom I called Kay), but I think it was in 1971 or 1972. We traveled in the same circles and went to the same panels, and talked of ethnic literatures at every opportunity. Evelyn first met Katharine on a brisk fall evening in 1973 when they arrived at her house in Baltimore loaded with ideas and materials, and exuding enthusiasm. She knew of the courses Evelyn had been teaching. She was, as Evelyn recalled, talking about her goal of founding a national ethnic literature organization.

In the next few months, Katharine worked tirelessly to organize the first meeting of what was to become MELUS. Some ten of us gathered at the 1973 MLA convention in Chicago. …

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