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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.

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World

When Wednesday 18 November, 18.30-20.00
Where British Library Terrace Restaurant
Price £8 / £6 / £5 Book via the BL Box Office

The visionary German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was daringly adventurous but also created the way we understand nature today. Though almost forgotten today, more things are named after him than anyone else. There are towns, rivers, mountain ranges, the ocean current that runs along the South American coast and there’s a penguin, a giant squid – even the mare Humboldtianum on the moon.

Humboldt was the most famous scientist of his age. Perceiving nature as an interconnected global force, Humboldt discovered similarities between climate zones across the world and predicted human-induced climate change. He turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and his writings inspired poets such Wordsworth and Goethe but also politicians such as Jefferson. Darwin would have not boarded the Beagle without Humboldt, and it was Humboldt’s influence that shaped Thoreau’s Walden.

Drawing on the research for her new book The Invention of Nature, Andrea Wulf (2013 Eccles British Library Writer in Residence) will take us on a fantastic voyage in his footsteps – across the highest peaks of the Andes and along tropical rivers alive with crocodiles, showing us why his life and ideas remain so important today. She traces Humboldt’s influences through the great minds he inspired in revolution, evolution, ecology, conservation, art and literature.  Wulf brings this lost hero to science and the forgotten father of environmentalism back to life.

Andrea Wulf was born in India, moved to Germany as a child, and now lives in Britain. She is the author of several acclaimed books, including The Brother Gardeners which was long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2008 and Founding Gardeners which was on the New York Times Best Seller List. She used her residency at the British Library in 2013 to conduct research for The Invention of Nature.

The talk will be followed by a wine reception and book signing.

Organised in collaboration with the American Museum in Britain.

A Spiritual Journey

When Friday 11 December, 18.30-20.00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10 / £8 / £7 Book via the BL Box Office

American Negro spirituals have their roots in West African musical practice and language. The trans-Atlantic slave trade carried oral traditions to the New World forming the foundation of African American music. In this lecture performance, soprano and scholar Kimberly Hawkins, joined by a gospel choir, takes you on a musical journey connecting the two continents. 

Part of the events programme for the West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song exhibition.

Henry James and Memory Conference

When Thursday 14 - Saturday 16 April, 2016
Where British Library Conference Centre

Plenary Speakers:
Sarah Churchwell, Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities, University of East Anglia
Richard Holmes, OBE, FRSL, FBA, biographer

2016 marks the centenary of the death of Henry James (15 April 1843-28 February 1916), and will be a year in which James’s heritage will be celebrated, and will come under scrutiny, in a variety of settings and in different modes. This first conference of the centenary year will take place in London, James’s adopted home and the location of much of his fiction, and will be hosted by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, one of the world’s greatest libraries. Taking advantage of another centenary, it will give special attention to James’s richly complex relation to Shakespeare, as well as to other writers, especially poets. In addition to academic papers, it will also involve readings by creative writers - in poetry and prose - of works inspired by James and his example.

The conference will start with a public event on Thursday evening 14 April and continue until Saturday afternoon 16 April 2016.

The academic organisers are Philip Horne (University College London), Gert Buelens (Ghent University) and Oliver Herford (University of Birmingham).

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