Dear ALSCW members and friends:
We are delighted to announce the ALSCW's spring Zoom series. These virtual events will help to keep our membership connected and to advance our organization's mission to advance the study and creation of literature. We are deeply grateful to our participants—it’s an incredibly talented lineup—and to all of you for your support of the ALSCW (information on memberships and renewals can be found at ALSCW.org). We will send out a link a week to ten days before each event.
From Szolnok, Hungary: Zsolt Bajnai and Marcell Bajnai in Interview, Story, and Song
March 10th, 3 pm EST
ALSCW Council member Diana Senechal hosts an interview with the journalist, blogger, and story writer Zsolt Bajnai, whose work she has been translating, and his son, Marcell Bajnai, a musician, songwriter, and university student. This will be followed by a short performance, where the father will read several of his stories and the son will play his own songs between them.
According to Zsolt Bajnai's credentials, he is a secondary-school teacher (of history and geography) and a journalist. The former career never materialized; the latter he has been cultivating slowly over thirty years. He has worked for several newspapers and edited magazines and books. In his civil life — when not writing — he works in public administration of pop music. Over time he gathered the courage to publish his prose. He is the creator and author of blogSzolnok, which examines the history of Szolnok, Hungary, through postcards, photographs, maps, and other artifacts. After the appearance in 2016 and 2018, respectively, of his first two volumes of short stories — A megmozdult világ (The Shifted World) and Visszaköszönés (Return Greeting) — his third, Az eltűnt városháza (The Vanished City Hall), was published in the spring of 2020.
Marcell Bajnai, a singer-guitarist and songwriter, is the frontman of the band Idea (formerly 1LIFE). He launched his solo project (Bajnai Marcell) in early 2020. His songs and style are simultaneously influenced by the leading performers of Anglo-Saxon-rooted rock music and the trends of the Hungarian alternative scene; his lyrics, by the works of Hungarian and world literary authors. The aim of his solo project is to present his text-centered songs to the audience with simple instrumentation. He was born on June 23, 2000, in Budapest, and later moved to Szolnok with his family. In 2019, he graduated from the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok; he is currently a student of Hungarian at the Faculty of Arts of the Eötvös Loránd University, where he studies literature and linguistics.
Diana Senechal is the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities and the author of Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies (2018) and Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture (2011), as well as numerous stories, poems, essays, satirical pieces, and translations. Her translations of the poems of Tomas Venclova have been featured in two books; her translations of Gyula Jenei's poetry have appeared in Literary Matters and will be published in book form by Deep Vellum in 2021. Since November 2017 she has been teaching English and Civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok. When not teaching or writing, she often bikes through the Hungarian countryside.
J. Chester Johnson discusses his book, Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre
April 7th, 6 pm EST
The 1919 Elaine Race Massacre, arguably the worst in our country’s history, has been widely unknown for the better part of a century, thanks to the whitewashing of history. In 2008, Johnson was asked to write the Litany of Offense and Apology for a National Day of Repentance, where the Episcopal Church formally apologized for its role in transatlantic slavery and related evils. In his research, Johnson happened upon a treatise by historian and anti-lynching advocate Ida B. Wells on the Elaine Massacre, where more than a hundred and possibly hundreds of African-American men, women, and children perished at the hands of white posses, vigilantes, and federal troops in rural Phillips County, Arkansas. Johnson would discover that his beloved grandfather had been a member of the KKK and participated in the massacre. The discovery shook him to his core. Thereafter, he met Sheila L. Walker, a descendant of African-American victims of the massacre, and she and Johnson committed themselves to reconciliation. Damaged Heritage brings to light a deliberately erased chapter in American history, and offers a blueprint for how our pluralistic society can at last acknowledge—and repudiate—our collective damaged heritage and begin a path towards true healing.
J. Chester Johnson is an acclaimed poet, essayist, and translator, and the author of Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre and A Story of Reconciliation. He is also the author of several celebrated poetry collections and non-fiction work and was one of two poets (the other being W. H. Auden) on the drafting committee for the retranslated Psalms in The Book of Common Prayer. Johnson also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U. S. Treasury Department under Jimmy Carter and lives in New York City with his wife.
Crisis, History, and Representation: New Work by Russ Castronovo and Robert S. Levine
May 12th, 6 pm EST
Russ Castronovo and Robert Levine will discuss their new work: Castronovo's book manuscript, Insecure: Information and Terror before 9/11, and Levine's The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson (W. W. Norton, forthcoming August 2021). Their conversation will examine the role of literary and historical representation at moments of crisis. They will also explore how the methods and objects of literary study can address political conflict, state power, and racial inequities.
Russ Castrovovo is Director of the Center for the Humanities and Tom Paine Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include Propaganda 1776: Secrets, Leaks, and Revolutionary Communications in Early America; Beautiful Democracy: Aesthetics and Anarchy in a Global Era; Necro Citizenship: Death, Eroticism, and the Public Sphere in the Nineteenth-Century United States; and Fathering the Nation: American Genealogies of Slavery and Freedom.
Robert S. Levine is Professor of English and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland-College Park. His recent books include The Lives of Frederick Douglass (2016), and Race, Transnationalism, and Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies (2018). He has edited a number of volumes, including Frederick Douglass and Herman Melville: Essays in Relation (2008) and the Norton Critical Edition of Melville’s Pierre (2017). He is the General Editor of The Norton Anthology of American Literature. He is a member of the ALSCW Council.
David M. O'Connell Professor of English
Executive Director, Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers
Chair, Department of English