Chestertown, MD, October 4, 2006 — Washington College's Sophie Kerr Committee and the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience present "Why Literature Matters: Poets and the Abolition of Slavery," a lecture by James Basker, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of English, Barnard College, and President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The talk will be held Monday, October 9, at 4:30 p.m. in the college's Casey Academic Center Forum. The event is free and open to the public.
An eighteenth century scholar and expert on anti-slavery movements, Basker will explore the influence of poetry on the abolition of slavery, drawing on excerpts from his book, Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems About Slavery, 1660-1810 (Yale University Press, 2005). Acclaimed by critics as "an astounding literary and editorial achievement," Amazing Graceanthologizes more than 400 poems and poetic excerpts by writers, both famous and unknown, and traces the emergence of slavery and its injustices in the collective consciousness of the English-speaking world.
In addition to his interest in slavery and abolition, Basker specializes in the life and works of Samuel Johnson, the history of print culture, and women writers. His publications include Tobias Smollett, Critic and Journalist, winner of a 1989 Choice Award;Tradition in Transition: Women Writers, Marginal Texts, and the Eighteenth-Century Canon, with Alvaro Ribeiro, S.J.; Samuel Johnson in the Mind of Thomas Jefferson; and a modern edition of The Critical Review, or Annals of Literature 1756-1763. Before his professorship at Barnard College, he taught at Harvard and Columbia. He became president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in 1997. Currently, he serves on the editorial board of The Age of Johnson and is an elected fellow of the Pierpont Morgan Library and the Society of American Historians.
The talk is sponsored by Washington College's Sophie Kerr Committee, which carries on the work of Sophie Kerr's literary legacy to the college, and the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. Established in 2000 with a grant from the New York-based Starr Foundation, the Starr Center draws on the special historical strengths of Washington College and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Through educational programs, scholarship, and public outreach, the Starr Center explores the early republic, the rise of democracy, and the manifold ways in which the founding era continues to shape American culture. In partnership with other institutions and with leading scholars and writers, the Center works to promote innovative approaches to the study of history, and to bridge the gaps between historians, contemporary policymakers, and the general public.