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The Black Studies Project: 50 Years and Counting

The Lionel Trilling Seminar

dateOctober 6, 2021 timeWednesday, 6:15pm EDT locationVirtual Event
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
  • Image Credit/Caption: Hortense J. Spillers at Arika Episode 7: We Can’t Live Without Our Lives, 2015. Photograph by Alex Woodward
Hortense Spillers with event info

Born in the heat of struggle, the Black Studies movement in the United States looks back now at more than fifty years of curricular development and ahead to a hopeful future at least as long. This year’s Trilling Lecture examines the moment Black Studies is transformed, virtually overnight, from protest on the streets of America into a curricular object—still controversial nonetheless—that has altered the face of humanistic study in the United States. The outcome is both a cause worthy of celebration and the occasion for a cautionary tale.

The Trilling Lecture will be given by Dr. Hortense Spillers.

Hortense Spillers is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor, Emerita, in English at Vanderbilt University. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2021 and has most recently served as the M.H. Abrams distinguished visiting professor in English at Cornell University where she taught from 1987 to 2006. Her essay collection, Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture appeared in 2003 and has been the subject of various symposiums and critiques; currently at work on two large projects, the Idea of Black Culture and the status of women in the revolutionary context of the 18th century, she has recently published work in the African-American Review, Callaloo, and The Bloomsbury Companion to Feminist Theory; in 2017, she launched the A-Line, a quarterly of progressive thought and has been a recent recipient of lifetime achievement awards from Callaloo (2016), the Caribbean Philosophical Association (2017), and the Hubbell Prize for work in American Literature from the American Literature Association of MLA (2019). She lectures widely, most recently as an international visiting fellow at the Institute for Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Social Justice and the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Study at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.


Rich Blint is assistant professor of Literature in the Department of Literary Studies, director of the Program in Race and Ethnicity, and affiliate faculty in Gender Studies at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School. He is co-editor of a special issue of African American Review on James Baldwin, wrote the introduction and notes for the eBook Baldwin for Our Times: Writings from James Baldwin for a Time of Sorrow and Struggle (Beacon Press), and served as Guest Critic for a special issue of The Brooklyn Rail on James Baldwin. Upcoming books include A Radical Interiority: James Baldwin and the Personified Self in Modern American Culture, and A Queer Spirit: Incidents in the Life of the Americas. He is also co-editor of the forthcoming Cambridge volume African American Literature in Transition, 1980-1990, editor of Approaches to Teaching the Works of James Baldwin, currently under preparation for the Modern Language Association, and editor-at-large for the A-Line: a journal of progressive thought. His writing has appeared in African American Review, James Baldwin Review, Anthropology Now, The Believer, McSweeney’s, and sx visualities. Professor Blint was the 2016-2017 Scholar-in-Residence in the MFA Program in Performance and Performance Studies at Pratt Institute, and a 2017-2018 Visiting Scholar at the Center for Experimental Humanities at New York University.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is University Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. Her books are Myself Must I Remake (1974), Of Grammatology (1976; translation with critical introduction of Derrida’s De la grammatologie; 2016, new 40th anniversary edition), In Other Worlds (1987), Outside in the Teaching Machine (1993), A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (1999), Other Asias (2003), An Aesthetic Education (2013), and Readings (2014). “Can the Subaltern Speak?” has become a worldwide classic. She has won the Kyoto Prize, the Padma Bhushan, and Chevalier des Arts. She has been elected to the American Association of Arts & Sciences and the British Academy. She holds twelve honorary doctorates. She is an obsessive hands-on activist for holistic humanities education, ecology, feminism.