Victorian Colloquium

Moving Stones: About the Art of Edmonia Lewis
Feb 28, 2024, 12:00 pm1:20 pm



Event Description

This talk approaches the Victorian sculptor Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907) as an artist whose neoclassical works and life narrative transform our understanding of art, materiality and racial formations in the 19th century Atlantic world. As among the first professional, colored sculptors in the West (she was of Black and Anishinaabe descent), Lewis’s complex subjectivity defies disciplinary divides. Indeed, it is difficult to grasp her significance from a singular point of view: in this, her life narrative mimics her chosen mode of artistic expression since sculpture, especially in the round, cannot be grasped in its “totality” from a fixed position (even when it is made with a pronounced frontal view). This is another way in which this talk about Lewis looks queerly at her life and work — which is to say, behind, before, beyond, below, and around the edge. The theoretical approach highlights haptic-optic relations and promotes the idea that movement, paradoxically, is integral to sculpture.

Lunch is provided, so seats are limited. Register to reserve a seat!

Born in Princeton, NJ, Jennifer DeVere Brody (she/her) holds a B.A. in Victorian studies from Vassar College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English and American literature from the University of Pennsylvania. Her scholarship and service in African and African American studies, gender and sexuality studies, visual and performance studies have been recognized by numerous awards: a 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2023 Virginia Howard Fellowship from the Bogliasco Foundation, support from the Mellon and Ford Foundations, the Monette-Horwitz Prize for Independent Research Against Homophobia, the Royal Society for Theatre Research, and the Thurgood Marshall Prize for Academics and Community Service among others. Her scholarly essays have appeared in Theatre Journal, Signs, Genders, Callaloo, Screen, Text and Performance Quarterly and other journals as well as in numerous edited volumes. Her books are: Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity and Victorian Culture (Duke University Press, 1998), Punctuation: Art, Politics and Play (Duke University Press, 2008) and Moving Stones: About the Art of Edmonia Lewis (forthcoming from Duke University Press). She has served as the president of the Women and Theatre Program, on the board of Women and Performance and has worked with the Ford and Mellon Foundations. She co-produced “The Theme is Blackness” festival of Black plays in Durham, NC when she taught in African American studies at Duke University. Her research and teaching focus on performance, aesthetics, politics as well as Black feminist theory, Black queer studies and contemporary cultural studies. She co-edited, with Nicholas Boggs, the re-publication of James Baldwin’s illustrated book Little Man, Little Man (Duke UP, 2018). She held the Weinberg College of Board of Visitors Professorship at Northwestern University and has been a tenured professor at six different universities in her thirty-year career. Her expertise in queer studies fostered her work as co-editor, with C. Riley Snorton, of the flagship journal GLQ. She serves on the editorial board of Transition and of key journals in global 19th-century studies. At Stanford, she served as chair of the Theater & Performance Studies Department (2012-15) and faculty director of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity (2016-21).

Department of English