Reading series finale to feature Black feminist scholars

Black feminist scholars will examine the current socio-political and cultural moment in “Triangle Breathing: A Conversation with Hortense Spillers and Alexis Pauline Gumbs,” the final Barbara & David Zalaznick Reading Series: At Home virtual event of the fall.

The event, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m., is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, associate professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, will moderate.

“This will be an exciting and inspiring conversation,“ Van Clief-Stefanon said. “Hortense Spillers’ foundational Black feminist scholarship opens up a clearer space for work both within and beyond the academy. Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ ‘Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity,’ inspired by Hortense, is the first in a trilogy of poetic texts Gumbs has written in conversation with the work of Black feminist thinkers.”

The participants will examine such topics as the 2020 election’s implications, police reform, the Black Lives Matter movement, writing as a political act, and their perspectives on the state of law and order.

Spillers, a literary critic and essayist who received her Ph.D. from Brandeis University, is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. She was the M.H. Abrams Distinguished Visiting Professor at Cornell in 2019.

Her collection of scholarly essays, “Black, White, and In Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture” includes her landmark 1987 article, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” one of the most cited essays in African American literary studies.

Her co-edited works include “Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition” and “Comparative American Identities: Race, Sex, and Nationality in the Modern Text.” She is a co-founder of The Feminist Wire, an online magazine dedicated to providing socio-political and cultural critique of anti-feminist, racist, and imperialist politics.

Gumbs received a Ph.D. in English, Africana Studies and Women’s Studies from Duke University. Her experimental works include “Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity,” “M Archive: After the End of the World” and “Dub: Finding Ceremony.” Her poetry and fiction have been included in “Best American Experimental Writing.”

She is currently creative writing editor at Feminist Studies, as well as in residence as a National Humanities Center Fellow.

Van Clief-Stefanon is the author of “Open Interval,” a 2009 finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and “Black Swan,” winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, as well as the chapbooks “Leading with a Naked Body” with Leela Chantrelle and “Poems in Conversation and a Conversation,” with Elizabeth Alexander.

She has written plays and lyrics for The Cherry, an Ithaca arts collective, and in 2018, her work was featured in “Courage Everywhere,” celebrating women’s suffrage and the fight for political equality, at National Theatre London.

Read the story in the Cornell Chronicle.

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