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From the Puritan Errand to the Errant Latin(x): Language, Race, and American Memory

Kirsten Silva Gruesz, University of California Santa Cruz

March 3, 2020 · 4:30 pm6:30 pm · 106 McCormick

Department of English; Humanities Council

How does Latina/o/x Studies exert pressure on the memory-work of U.S. American cultural history, and especially on its figurations of racial identity? Reaching back to the early eighteenth century, this talk situates third-generation Puritan Cotton Mather within Spanish colonial and indigenous spaces and translation practices. A theorization of errancy links this revisionism to the contemporary activist poetics of Juan Felipe Herrera.

Kirsten Silva Gruesz, Visiting Whitney J Oates Fellow in the Humanities and Department of English, studies the changing conditions of literary production and reception: who gets to say what’s good, or what’s worth remembering? What languages and linguistic registers have social power, and who gets access to them? She researches materials in English and Spanish from across the Americas from the 17th century to the present, with the mid-19th century and the post-NAFTA era the key periods for her research.She also writes about and teaches contemporary works by U.S. Latinas and Latinos, whose experiences are deeply rooted in the entangled histories of colonization and racism that link the U.S. to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. She is active in research clusters and initiatives at UCSC and elsewhere: in 2017 she co-directed a summer seminar in the history of the book in America at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts titled “Other Languages, Other Americas.” In these and other professional contexts, she spreads the gospel of comparative and multilingual approaches to “American” literature and history. She holds a B.A. from Swarthmore College and a Ph.D. from Yale University.

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