Reception at 5:30pm, Lecture at 6:00pm
Maxine Smith University Center Bluff Room
In 1934, the African American folksinger Lead Belly made an astonishing appearance as the “Negro minstrel from Louisiana” at the largest gathering of literature scholars in the world—the annual meetings of the Modern Language Association. In the same decade, the novelist and ethnographer Zora Neale Hurston journeyed into rural locations in Florida to collect African American folk ballads, making recordings of herself singing them to be filed away at the Library of Congress. Twenty years later, William Faulkner saw fit to portray Father of the Blues W. C. Handy as a character in his novel The Town, depicting Handy as playing his song, “The Memphis Blues,” for white characters dancing at a cotillian in Memphis. How shall we read these instances of exchange between literature and vernacular music in the 1930s? Was there something about the folk music of the era that drew in purveyors of the literary? At a moment, moreover, when “high” literature was coming to be understood as a haven from technological arts, how did vernacular music, newly accessible on crackly shellac 78s and buzzy radio, make the cut as literature? Dr. Dore’s lecture will move the site of modern literature from academic halls and coastal cities to Memphis, showing how the blues and American literary modernism evolved as intertwining forms.
Florence Dore is a singer/songwriter and an academic. She teaches in both the creative writing and literature programs at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She has held fellowships at New York University, the National Humanities Center, and the Institute for Arts and Humanities at UNC. A member of the Steering Committee for Post45, a collective of scholars working on American Literature and Culture since 1945, Dore was also a founding co-editor for the Post45 Book Series at Stanford University Press. During the pandemic, she created and acted as co- executive producer for Cover Charge: NC Musicians Go Under Cover to Benefit Cat’s Cradle, a benefit compilation record that came in #1 in compilations on the Billboard charts. She sits on the advisory board for the Institute for Bob Dylan Studies at the University of Tulsa’s Bob Dylan Archive.
Event Venue & Nearby Stays
University of Memphis, 3720 Alumni Ave,Memphis,TN,United States, Memphis, United States