Birns to discuss revivals of neglected books
Birns to discuss revivals of neglected booksNovember 16, 2006Mary Beth Hintonmbhinton@syr.edu
Nicholas Birns, faculty member at Eugene Lang College in The New School, will give a talk, “When Neglected Books Are Revived: The Cases of William Godwin and Dawn Powell,” Friday, Dec. 1, at 4 p.m. in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons on the first floor of E.S. Bird Library. The talk is sponsored by the Syracuse University History of the Book Seminar Series.
There have been many recent revivals of “lost classics.” But what does it mean for a classic book to be lost? Is it utterly unread, or is it read by too few people to generate a critical mass sufficient to make it broadly known within the culture? What about those books that are never lost, those that have a “continuity of reception”? What is their relationship to books that have been lost and then revived? Using William Godwin’s 1793 novel “Caleb Williams” and the novels of the 20th-century American novelist Dawn Powell as test cases, this talk will explore what it means for a book to be lost and to be revived, the different ways that revived books are received in academia and in the general literary culture, and the nature of revivals themselves as cultural phenomena. The talk will close by drawing lessons from these cases for considering revivals of neglected books.
Birns, who has taught literature at The New School since 1996, is the author of “Understanding Anthony Powell” (University of South Carolina Press, 2004) and the editor of “Antipodes” (Picador, 2005). He has written for European Romantic Review, Southern Quarterly, Arizona Quarterly, Religion and the Arts, and Review of Contemporary Fiction. He has a Ph.D. in English from New York University.
The History of the Book Seminar Series is sponsored by the University Library, the School of Information Studies, and the College of Arts and Sciences: the Dean’s Office and the departments of Anthropology; English; History; Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics; Philosophy; and Religion.