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Forthcoming events and conferences

The Eccles Centre for American Studies regularly organises and supports conferences, seminars, lectures and other events on North American and transatlantic themes, often in partnership with other institutions and organisations.

Symposium: Home, Crisis and the Imagination

When Monday 30 March 2015, 10:00-16:00
Where British Library Conference Centre

A one day interdisciplinary symposium organised by the AHRC-funded network "Home, Crisis and the Imagination" based in the School of English, University of Leeds.  The day will explore how home and crisis are interlinked in the imagination, and investigate the extraordinary power that home has as both a physical location and an object of representation.

The morning will include a symposium discussion of shared texts, provided in advance. The afternoon keynote address will be given by Professor Cindi Katz (CUNY), "Domesticating the Crisis: Children and the Management of Insecurity". The full symposium programme, including details of the shared texts, is available here.

Enquiries about the symposium should be sent to the organisers Lucy Arnold (Network Administrator) and Dr Cara Rodway (Eccles Centre for American Studies).

The delegate fee for the one-day symposium is £5. This includes lunch and refreshments.

Eventbrite - “Home, Crisis and the Imagination” AHRC Network Workshop

For more about the network see: and

The workshop is hosted by the Eccles Centre, with support from the AHRC and the University of Leeds.

Black Dandyism

When Friday 17 April 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Terrace Restaurant
Price £8 / £6 / £5 Book via the BL Box Office

Twentieth century dandyism was deeply rooted in nineteenth century literary and performance cultures. Michèle Mendelssohn examines two of dandyism’s intertwined roots: the European dandy tradition (synonymous with Charles Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde) and the blackface minstrel show dandy. Her talk asks what this genealogy reveals about nineteenth century dandyism’s descendants, and the cultural burdens they bore? And asks what place do our cultural genealogies make for dandyism’s dark brother, minstrelsy?

This talk considers how early twentieth century African American writers renegotiated their relationship to dandyism and how one man in particular sought to make black dandyism new. In this talk, Dr Mendelssohn discusses W. E. B. Du Bois’s struggle with this theme in Dark Princess: A Romance – a fascinating, cosmopolitan novel that engages some of dandyism’s most problematic legacies. She explores how this most influential Renaissance Man of African American letters grappled with this fraught tradition and, in the process, attempted to redraft literary modernity’s lines of transmission.

Michèle Mendelssohn is Associate Professor in English and American Literature at Oxford University.

Presented in collaboration with the ‘Aestheticism and Decadence in the Age of Modernism: 1895 to 1945’ conference at the Institute of English Studies, University of London.

Late at the Library: Freedom of Expression, featuring Saul Williams and Tongue Fu

When Friday 15 May 2015, 19:30-23:00
Where British Library Entrance Hall
Price £20 Book via the BL Box Office

A night of extraordinary words, performance and sounds, free speech and beats. We are proud to present an exclusive European appearance by incomparable emcee, poet and rap artist Saul Williams, together with his band. In addition, spoken word collective Tongue Fu present some of the best in the UK: Dizraeli, Salena Godden, Vanessa Kisuule and Chris Redmond plus Belgium’s Baloji. And if this wasn’t enough, DJ Norman Jay MBE will play a special music selection. Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy will be open on the night and entry is included in the ticket price.

This event is part of the events programme for the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition.

Inventing The Great Gatsby: 1922-1925

When Monday 18 May 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10 / £8 / £7 Book via the BL Box Office

In the 2015 Sulgrave Manor Watson Chair Lecture, Professor Sarah Churchwell reflects on the gestation and creation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. On publication in April 1925, the novel was greeted with some admiration, but also a great deal of puzzlement and bemusement, as well. The one thing most critics recognized was that it was an acidic satire of contemporary American life, but today, satire is very far from most people’s conception of this great American novel. Using original archival material and newly discovered contemporary responses, in this talk in honour of Gatsby’s 90th birthday, Professor Churchwell will tell the story of Fitzgerald’s developing ideas and the ways in which he conceived his novel, and the different ways it has been received in the 90 years since its publication.

Sarah Churchwell is Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at UEA. She is the author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and The Invention of The Great Gatsby, The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, and her literary journalism has appeared in the Guardian, New Statesman, TLS, New York Times Book Review, and the Spectator, among others. She comments regularly on arts, culture, and politics for UK television and radio, has judged many literary prizes, including the Bailey’s (Orange) Prize for Fiction and the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. She is the recipient of the Eccles British Library Writer in Residence award for 2015.

Presented in collaboration with Sulgrave Manor.

Magna Carta's American Adventure

When Monday 1 June 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10 / £8 / £7 Book via the BL Box Office

Magna Carta came to America with the first charters, which guaranteed colonists the "privileges, franchises, and immunities" of English law. In the years leading up to the Revolution, Americans drew upon Magna Carta in framing their arguments against British policies. Ideas drawn from English constitutionalism, including Magna Carta, helped Americans shape their state constitutions and the Federal Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. The story of American constitutionalism is one of both tradition and innovation.

In the 2015 Robert H Smith Lecture in American Democracy, Professor A E Dick Howard explores how Magna Carta has left an indelible mark on American constitutionalism. At the core of this legacy is the idea of the rule of law. Another principle, influenced by Coke's reading of Magna Carta, is constitutional supremacy—the idea of a superstatute superior to ordinary laws. Magna Carta's assurance of proceedings according to the "law of the land" is the direct ancestor of American ideas of due process of law. And, just as Magna Carta proved adaptable to the crises of later times, so has American constitutionalism proved to be organic and evolving.

A E Dick Howard is the White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, he was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black. His writings include The Road from Runnymede: Magna Carta and Constitutionalism in America. He has consulted extensively with constitution-makers in other countries, especially in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe. Recently the University of Virginia conferred on him its Thomas Jefferson Award -- the highest honour the University accords a member of its faculty.

This event is part of the events programme for the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition.

Presented in collaboration with Benjamin Franklin House and the US Embassy London.

Crossroads of Curiosity: The British Library meets Burning Man

When Saturday 20 June 2015, 19:00-late
Where British Library Conference Centre & Piazza
Price Unveiling: £14 / £13 / £12; Talk and unveiling: £20 / £18 / £17; Booking will open via the BL Box Office shortly

On the summer solstice, we celebrate the unveiling of a major installation at the British Library, Crossroads of Curiosity, originally exhibited at the Burning Man Festival 2014. The evening starts with talks from speakers including the creator of the installation, David Normal, and Larry Harvey, founder of Burning Man. The installation unveiling at dusk is accompanied by a series of outdoor performances and displays from artists, musicians, comedians and digital researchers.

The event is supported by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, Friends of the British Library, Black Rock Arts Foundation and other private donations.

The Power of Iconic Documents

When Monday 29 June 2015, 18:30-20:30
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £15 / £12 / £10 Booking will open via the BL Box Office shortly

Once written down, some texts take on a power that makes them touchstones of human wisdom; inspiring movements, brave individuals and even whole nations. At this exceptional event hear Geoffrey Robertson on Magna Carta, Jill Lepore on the US Bill of Rights and Michael Ignatieff on The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This will be followed by a discussion chaired by Sarah Churchwell, Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities, UEA and Eccles British Library Writer in Residence for 2015.

This event is part of the events programme for the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition.

Independence Day

When Saturday 4 July 2015, 10:00-14:00
Where British Library Piazza
Price Free

Calling all US expats and lovers of Americana. Get your tickets for the exhibition (ticket charges apply)and pay your respects to the Declaration of Independence while enjoying a morning of razzmatazz, live music, food and fun around the building.

This event is part of the events programme for the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition.

Jesse Jackson in Conversation

When Friday 21 August 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £20 / £16 / £14 Booking will open via the BL Box Office shortly

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures. Over the past forty years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice. At this special event he talks about the present state of equalities and rights in the US and beyond.

This event is part of the events programme for the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition.

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