Lectures and Performances
Thursday, October 23, at 7:00 pm
The Life and Times of Cotton Mather
By Kenneth Silverman
The eleventh annual Robert C. Baron Lecture
Kenneth Silverman, professor emeritus of English at NYU, has written acclaimed biographies of Edgar Allan Poe, Harry Houdini, Samuel F.B. Morse, and John Cage. For this year’s Baron Lecture, Professor Silverman will talk about his 1984 book The Life and Times of Cotton Mather, which won both the Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the Bancroft Prize for American History. He will reflect on how he came to write his biography of Mather, and how that experience compares to the experience of writing biographies of some very different American cultural figures.
Named in honor of Robert C. Baron, past AAS chairman and president of Fulcrum Publishing, the annual Baron Lecture asks distinguished AAS members who have written seminal works of history to reflect on one book and its impact on scholarship and society in the years since its first appearance.
Previous Lectures and Performances
Tuesday, March 25, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
The Drama of the Dram: A Play Reading and Conversation about Nineteenth-Century Theatre and Alcohol Past and Present
2 Southbridge Street
Worcester, MA 01608
This program will feature professional actors reading selections from the nineteenth-century melodrama The Drunkard, interspersed with discussions about the play’s importance in American culture and attitudes about substance abuse past and present. Thomas Augst, associate professor of English at New York University, and Jim McKenna, vice president of Marketing and Development at AdCare Hospital, will lead the discussions. The temperance play The Drunkard, or The Fallen Saved by William H. Smith was written in 1844 and quickly became one of the most popular plays of the nineteenth century. It was particularly famous for its on-stage depiction of the delirium tremens. While largely forgotten today, this work continues to influence our perceptions and imaginings about substance abuse and recovery.
This program is presented in partnership with the Hanover Theatre All Access Lyceum Series and is sponsored by Adcare
Thursday, April 10, at 7:00 p.m.
“The incredible journey of Benjamin Franklin’s Way to Wealth--and its bibliographical traces”
By Kenneth Carpenter
The James Russell Wiggins Lecture in the History of the Book in American Culture
Benjamin Franklin’s “Way to Wealth” began its existence in Philadelphia as the untitled preface to Poor Richard’s Almanac for 1758. Despite not having a formal title—or author’s name—and despite being published on the periphery of the British Empire, it gradually spread around the world, eventually being published in twenty-six languages, in well over a thousand appearances. Franklin’s paean to hard work and frugality was issued for a variety of audiences, from elites to peasants and servants, and in formats ranging from newspapers to advice manuals to schoolbooks. Thanks to digitization, it has been possible to produce a bibliography that describes distinct appearances, not just editions. This lecture will explain the process by which Franklin’s anonymous text spread widely and deeply into the Western world.
Kenneth Carpenter retired in 2000 after a thirty-five-year career in Harvard University’s libraries. He is the author of numerous works of bibliography and library history including Readers & Libraries: Toward a History of Libraries and Culture in America (1996), The Legacy of James Bowdoin III (1994) and Dissemination of the Wealth of Nations in French and in France, 1776-1843 (2002).
Inaugurated in 1983, the annual Wiggins Lecture honors the late James Russell Wiggins, who served as editor of the Washington Post, United States ambassador to the United Nations, and editor of the Ellsworth (Maine) American. From 1970 to 1977, he also served as head of the Council of the American Antiquarian Society.
Tuesday, April 22, at 7:00 p.m.
“Dreaming up a Nation Forever on the Move: The Strange Quest for the ‘Great American Novel’”
By Lawrence Buell
Co-sponsored by the Franklin M. Loew Lecture Series at Becker College
There have been hundreds of candidates for the Great American Novel in the nearly 150 years since John William DeForest first introduced the idea, but why have these books been contenders for this title? What do claims of being the GAN really mean? In this lecture based upon his recently published book The Dream of the Great American Novel (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press), lecturer Lawrence Buell charts the history of the quest to write the Great American Novel and then uses this history as a platform for exploring some of the characteristic ways that GAN candidates have acted as explorations and reference points for imagining a national identity. The concept of this book originated with Buell’s 1994 James Russell Wiggins Lecture in the History of the Book in American Culture.
Lawrence Buell is Powell M. Cabot Research Professor of American Literature at Harvard. He has written and lectured worldwide on American fiction, on the Transcendentalists and their legacies, and on the environmental humanities. His books include Literary Transcendentalism (1973), New England Literary Culture (1986), The Environmental Imagination (1995), Writing for an Endangered World (2001), and Emerson (2003). Before coming to Harvard in 1990, he taught for two decades at Oberlin College. He has held fellowships from the Mellon and Guggenheim foundations and from the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2007, he received the Modern Language Association’s Jay Hubbell Award for lifetime contributions to American Literature scholarship. Buell was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008.
Tuesday, May 6, 6-8 p.m.
Seventh Annual Adopt-A-Book Evening The Society’s 7th Annual Adopt-a-Book event, which raises funds for library acquisitions, will take place on Tuesday, May 6, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. During the evening, you will have the opportunity to view rare books, pamphlets, newspapers, prints, and manuscripts that have been recently acquired by AAS.
Adopt an item in your name or in memory/in honor of a special person. Your generous contribution will be permanently recorded on a special bookplate and in AAS’s online library catalog.
Entrance to the event is FREE if you have pre-adopted from the catalog.
You can adopt online, or if you have questions contact Lauren Hewes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (508) 471-2124.
To adopt in person, come to Antiquarian Hall on May 6th (6:00-8:00 pm). Hear what library curators are buying and why. Browse the exhibition of new acquisitions and examine exclusive items which will be available for adoption the night of the event only. Otherwise, $10 entrance fee on the night of May 6, 2014.
Tuesday, May 13, at 7:00 p.m.
“‘Slavery in the Bowels of a free & Christian Country:’ People of Color and the Struggle for Freedom in Revolutionary Massachusetts”
By Thomas Doughton
Co-Sponsored by Africana Studies at the College of the Holy Cross
Regional people of color submitted three important petitions to the provincial legislature: one calling for an end of slavery in the colony, another asking that former slaves be transported back to Africa, and a third that the legislature set aside lands in the western part of Massachusetts for former slaves. This presentation will explore the relationships of people of color in central New England as “A great number of Negroes …detained in a state of Slavery” to an emerging political discourse of revolutionary freedom and racial equity in rural Massachusetts.
Thomas Doughton is the Senior Lecturer at the Center for Interdisciplinary and Special Studies at the College of the Holy Cross. He received his PhD from the Universite de Paris. Doughton specializes in the history of people of color and their relationships with whites in Central New England.
This program is being presented as part of the Worcester Revolution of 1774, a celebration of Worcester County’s overthrow of British Authority seven months before the fighting at Lexington and Concord. For further information about this project see http://www.revolution1774.org/
Thursday, May 29, at 7:00 p.m.
“Sifting the Uneven Archive: Researching the The Forage House"
By Tess Taylor
In this program, poet Tess Taylor will recount how a residency here at the AAS helped her as she researched and wrote her latest book of poems, The Forage House. Her poems layer oral histories, documents, and folksongs to craft an exploration of her ancestors- a mix of New England missionaries and Southern slave owners, including Thomas Jefferson. Taylor's poems are as much about the imperfect material of family stories as they are about the politically charged material of history. Natasha Trethewey, our current poet laureate, described The Forage House as “a brave and compelling collection that bears witness to the journey of historical discovery. Sifting through archives, artifact, and souvenir, Taylor presents dialectic of what’s recorded and what is not, unearthing the traces that give way to her own history – and a vital link to our shared American past.” The San Francisco Chronicle called The Forage House “stunning.” The Oxford American says, “On their own, the poems are visceral, densely detailed, and frequently playful... Read together, in order, the details are illuminated by context and gain historical sweep.” Taylor researched The Forage House as a Robert and Charlotte Baron Creative Artist Fellow in 2006.
Tess Taylor’s poetry and nonfiction have appeared in The Atlantic, Boston Review, Harvard Review, Literary Imagination, The Times Literary Supplement, and The New Yorker. She currently reviews poetry for NPR’s All Things Considered and teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley.
Tuesday, June 10, at 7:00 P.M.
“On the Trail of the ‘Heathen School’: Local History, American History, and World History”
The lecture will be based on Demos's newly published book unraveling the forgotten story of a special school for “heathen youth” brought to New England in the early 19th century from all corners of the earth. Located in the little town of Cornwall, Connecticut, this uniquely fashioned institution embodied an early version of what we now call American exceptionalism. Convert them, educate them, civilize them, then send them back to found similar projects in their respective homelands, and the world will be saved in the shortest time imaginable: thus the goal of the eminent Protestant ministers in charge. After a seemingly brilliant beginning, however, the plans ran afoul of racism ̶ when some of the heathen students courted local women. The result was scandal, widespread controversy, and permanent closure of the school. In the aftermath two of the graduates, both Cherokees, returned to their Nation to lead the process of removal ̶ and paid for it with their lives. Demos will also reflect on the process of his research, including his time as a distinguished scholar at the Antiquarian Society and his visits to places central to the story. Copies of the book, entitled The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic (Knopf), signed by the author, will be available for purchase after the lecture.
John Demos is the Samuel Knight Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University. Demos’s award-winning books cover topics ranging from family life in Plymouth County, Massachusetts to witch-hunting in the Western World. These works include A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony (1970), the Bancroft Prize-winning Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (1982), Circles and Lines: The Shape of Life in Early America (2004), and The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-hunting in the Western World (2008). Demos is a member of the American Antiquarian Society, and was the AAS-Mellon Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence during the 2012 calendar year.