April Events

March 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm Leave a comment

Jenny Davidson reads from her novel The Magic Circle on Tuesday, April 2nd at 7pm.

In The Magic Circle, three young female academics design daring, boundary-pushing games–until one of them goes too6665_9704_9780544028098 far, in this contemporary thriller by an acclaimed Columbia University professor. They design games inspired by the secret history of the neighborhood around Columbia University, from Grant’s Tomb to the former insane asylum. When live-action role-playing based on classic Greek tragedy is introduced the games become exciting and deadly.

Jenny Davidson teaches in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Her first young-adult novel was The Explosionist, named as a Tiptree Honor Book. She has also written a novel for adults, Heredity, and two works of nonfiction: Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness: Manners and Morals from Locke to Austen and Breeding: A Partial History of the Eighteenth Century. Honors include a Lenfest Distinguished Teaching Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Mark Van Doren Teaching Award.


On Friday, April 5th at 7pm Alexander Stille reads and signs his book The Force of Things: A Marriage in War and Peace.

The Force of Things follows two families across the twentieth century–one starting in czarist Russia, the other starting in the American Midwest–and takes them across revolution, war, fascism, and racial persecution, until they collide at mid-century. Alexander Stille’s The Force of Things is a powerful, beautifully written work with the intimacy of a memoir, the pace and readability of a novel, and the historical sweep and documentary precision of nonfiction writing at its best. It is a portrait of people who are buffeted about by large historical events, who try to escape their origins but find themselves in the grip of the force of things.

Professor Stille has worked as a contributor to The New York Times, La Repubblica, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Correspondent, U.S. News World Report, and The Boston Globe. He is the author of Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families Under Fascism; Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic; The Future of the Past; and The Sack of Rome: How a Beautiful European Country with a Fabled History and a Storied Culture Was Taken Over by a Man Named Silvio Berlusconi. Stille is the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for best work of history, Premio Acqui, San Francisco Chronicle Critics Choice Award, and the Alicia Patterson Foundation award for journalism.


Stop in on Tuesday, April 9th at 7pm to see a reading and discussion of Fernando Alonso: The Father of Cuban Ballet given by the author, Toba Singer.
The Cuban National Ballet, complete with its own training school and indigenous twist, was built in large part by Fernando Alonso, a remarkable man who danced on Broadway, studied with the greatest figures of the Golden Era of Ballet, and helped win the support of the post-1959 revolutionary government for the advancement of ballet. Toba Singer’s quest to spotlight his seminal role in the development of the modern ballet canon yields key material: pre-blockade tapes from Lincoln Center, Spanish-language sources from the Museum of Dance in Havana, and interviews with the ballet master himself.
Toba Singer was Senior Program Director of the Art and Music Center of the San Francisco Public Library and its dance selector until her retirement in 2010. she graduated from New York City’s School of Performing Arts, with a major in Drama; the University of Massachusetts, with a BA in History; and the University of Maryland, with an Master of Library Science degree. For 30 years, Singer was actively engaged in pro-labor struggles and social and political campaigns. She worked in steel mills, chemical refineries, garment shops and as an airlines worker, as well as an editor, teacher and secretary. In the mid-1990s, Singer returned to the studio to study ballet after a 25-year absence, and in 2001, was invited to become a founding member of the Board of Directors of Robert Moses KIN dance company. Toba Singer is Honorary Chair for the September 2013 Words on Dance Evening with Carla Fracci.

On Thursday, April 18th T. Austin Graham presents his book The Great American Songbooks: Musical Texts, Modernism, and the Value of Popular Culture at 7pm.

A work of criticism situated at the crossroads of literary analysis, musicology, and cultural history, The Great

American Songbooks: Musical Texts, Modernism, and the Value of Popular Culture demonstrates the importance of studying fiction and poetry from interdisciplinary perspectives, and it suggests new avenues for research in the dawning age of the digital humanities. The Great American Songbooks: Musical Texts, Modernism, and the Value of Popular Culture is the story of this literature, at once an overview of musical and authorial practice at the century’s turn, an investigation into the sensory dimensions of reading, and a meditation on the effects that the popular arts have had on literary modernism. The writings of John Dos Passos, T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, and Walt Whitman are heard in a new key; the performers and tunesmiths who inspired them have their stories told; and the music of the past, long out of print and fashion, is recapitulated and made available in digital form.

T. Austin Graham received a B.A. from University of Virginia, and a Ph.D. from University of California-Los Angeles. Austin Graham specializes in nineteenth and twentieth-century American literature, with an emphasis on modernism. His scholarly work is primarily concerned with literature’s relationship to other arts and disciplines. He has placed articles in ELH, American Literature, American Literary History, New Literary History, and other venues. Currently, he is at work on a study of the American historical novel in the twentieth century.

Lydia Liu and co-editors Rebecca E. Karl and Dorothy Ko present The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory on Tuesday, April 23rd at 7pm.

The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory, the first translation and study of He-Yin Zhen’s work in English or Chinese, is also a critical reconstruction of early twentieth-century Chinese feminist thought in a transnational context. The book repositions He-Yin Zhen as central to the development of feminism in China, juxtaposing her writing with fresh translations of works by two of her better-known male interlocutors. He-Yin Zhen was a female theorist who played a central role in the birth of Chinese feminism. Editor of a prominent feminist-anarchist journal in the early twentieth century and exponent of a particularly incisive analysis of China and the world. Unlike her contemporaries, He-Yin Zhen was concerned less with China’s fate as a nation and more with the relationship among patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism, and gender subjugation as global and transhistorical problems. Her bold writings have been erased from the historical record. He-Yin Zhen complicates traditional accounts of women and modern history, offering original perspectives on sex, gender, labor, and power that continue to be relevant to feminist theorists in China, Europe, and America.

Lydia H. Liu is the W.T. Tam Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She teaches in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University where she currently serves as the Director of Graduate Studies. Professor Liu also holds a joint professorship at the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Tsinghua University in Beijing.


On Thursday, April 25th at 7pm Dissent Magazine hosts a book party. Dissent Magazine hosts the launch party for

George Scialabba’s newest collection of essays.

George Scialabba was born and raised in East Boston, MA, and attended Harvard and Columbia. He has been a social worker, a clerical worker, a faculty member of the Bennington Graduate Writing Seminars, and a freelance book critic. His column, New Thinking, appears bimonthly in the Boston Globe book section. In 1991 he was awarded the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing of the National Book Critics Circle. His first collection,

Divided Mind, was published in 2006 by Arrowsmith Press.


On Monday, April 29th at 7pm James G. Basker presents his anthology American Antislavery Writings: Colonial Beginnings to Emancipation.

This is the first anthology to take the full measure of a body of antislavery writing that spans nearly two centuries and, exceptionally for its time, embraced writers black and white, male and female. To advance their cause, the opponents of slavery employed every available literary form: fiction and poetry, essay and autobiography, sermons, pamphlets, speeches, hymns, plays, even children’s literature. It’s an inspiring moral and political struggle whose evolution parallels the story of America itself. Benjamin Franklin, Phillis Wheatley, and Olaudah Equiano offer original, even revolutionary, eighteenth century responses to slavery. With the nineteenth century, an already diverse movement becomes even more varied: the impassioned rhetoric of Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison joins the fiction of Harriet Beecher Stowe, and William Wells Brown; memoirs of former slaves stand alongside protest poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Lydia Sigourney; anonymous editorials complement speeches by statesmen such as Charles Sumner and Abraham Lincoln.

James G. Basker is President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and Oxbridge Academic Programs, and Richard Gilder Professor of Literary History at Barnard College, Columbia University. Educated at Harvard College, Cambridge University, and at Oxford University, Basker taught at Harvard for seven years before coming to Barnard in 1987. His scholarly work spans the fields of history and literature, focusing especially on the 18th century and the history of slavery and abolition. He has published several books, the most recent of which are

Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about Slavery 1660-1810, Early American Abolitionists: A Collection of Anti-Slavery Writings 1760-1820, and Slavery in the Founding Era: Literary Contexts.

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