Summer Scholars: Journeys – poetic, physical and metaphorical

Humpback whale

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Interactions between grey whale mothers and humans, and The Runaway Slave.

The Eccles Centre’s Summer Scholars season of free in-person lunchtime talks explores the exciting and wide-ranging research into the Americas collections at the British Library by the Eccles Centre’s Fellows and Award winners. The talks take place in the British Library Entrance Hall bookshop and attendees are welcome to bring their lunch.

Mothering in the Ocean: Grey Whale Mother Interactions with Humans through History

Exploring Captain Charles Scammon's whaling log from the grey whale birthing lagoons of Baja California, Mexico, in the 1850s and 1860s, Doreen Cunningham reflects on the contrast in the relationships between greys and local fishermen/indigenous peoples and her own experience of meeting mother and calf grey whales as she travelled up the Pacific coastline with her toddler son. She considers the indirect relationship humans have with the whales through the current and escalating effects of anthropogenic climate change.

A Journey of Process: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's The Runaway Slave takes on the persona of a Black slave in so-called ‘America.’ In this talk, Jessica Mehta explores how through the drafts of this poem, we witness the poet struggle with identity, perhaps not only with the poem's speaker, but with herself. By the time the poem is first published in an American magazine, the drafts have already revealed process, grappling with voice, and serve as a means of ushering us alongside Barrett Browning not as a passive audience but as voyeurs in this journey.

Doreen Cunningham is an Irish-British writer born in Wales. After studying engineering she worked briefly in climate related research at NERC and in storm modelling at Newcastle University, before turning to journalism, working for the BBC World Service as an international news presenter, editor, producer and reporter for 20 years. She won the RSL Giles St Aubyn Award 2020 and was shortlisted for both the Eccles Centre and Hay Festival Writer’s Award and the Pat Kavanagh Award for SOUNDINGS, Journeys in the Company of Whales, her first book.

Jessica Mehta is a Fulbright Nehru Senior Scholar in Bengaluru, India, where she is archiving an anthology of contemporary Indian poetry written in the coloniser's tongue and serving as a Visiting Professor in the English department. She recently completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Forecast Change Lab, analysing open calls for Native American artists.

Image: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Author: Merrill Gosho, NOAA.

This event is organised by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library. The Eccles Centre exists to support and promote creative research and lifelong learning about the Americas, through the world-class collections of the British Library.


Name: Summer Scholars: Journeys – poetic, physical and metaphorical
Where: Entrance Hall
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546