Academic journal article Early American Literature

Introducing the Conversation

Academic journal article Early American Literature

Introducing the Conversation

Article excerpt

These comments on Annette Gordon-Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello constitute the opening remarks at an interdisciplinary colloquy on the final afternoon of the Society of Early Americanists' seventh biennial conference. Rather than emphasizing the book's array of honors, including a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and the Frederick Douglass Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, or its author's having received a MacArthur Fellowship, the panelists focused on ways in which the book excels as an example of storytelling. Following these brief opening remarks, panelists and members of the audience engaged in a lively, substantive discussion of the book and of the role that archival work plays in scholarship on early American literature.

Each of the distinguished scholars in this colloquy, including the book's author, agreed well in advance to lay out, briefly, a specific issue or question related to the book. The sequence in which their remarks appear here reflects not only the order in which panelists seated themselves at the table but also the design of these colloquies: the author serves as one voice in this colloquy rather than as the respondent.

In proposing a session along these lines, I mistakenly assumed that the late Frank Shuffelton would be available to participate. …

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