This spring, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English Literature Peter Schmidt gave a lecture, "The Words You Speak Become the House You Live In: A Literature Professor's Perspective on Politics." In it, he shares some examples that literary writers have used to help people think about politics and power in ways that go beyond a focus on elections and party politics. He explores several interrelated topics, including the politics of scapegoating and hero-worship, its apparent opposite, as well as the politics of empathy, listening, self-criticism, and self-reform. Schmidt also considers aspects of ally-ship and how learning to be a good ally to others can be harder than it seems.
Schmidt is an authority on U.S. literature with a particular focus on fiction and poetry of the 20th century. He is the author of The Heart of the Story: Eudora Welty's Short Fiction (1991) and William Carlos Williams, The Arts, and Literary Tradition (1988), as well as the co-editor of Postcolonial Theory and the United States: Race, Ethnicity, and Literature (2000).
This talk is part of the Second Tuesday Cafe lecture series, which this academic year focused on the 2016 presidential election and its significance. Co-convened this year by Richter Professor of Political Science Carol Nackenoff and Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies Sa’ed Atshan '06, the talks provided interdisciplinary perspectives on critical issues underlying the campaign and the likely consequences of the election on domestic and foreign affairs. Sponsored each year by the Aydelotte Foundation, these monthly talks are geared for individuals with no formal background in the subject being discussed. The only requirement is curiosity.