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University Relations

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Feb. 24, 2005
Contact: Iris Smith Fischer, English department, (785) 864-2511.

International literacies conference at KU to challenge assumptions about America

LAWRENCE -- More than 100 teachers, performers, writers and scholars from the United States and abroad are expected to discuss the contested nature of America in a March 3 to 5 conference, "Writing, Teaching, Performing America" in the Kansas Union at the University of Kansas, in the Lawrence Arts Center and at other locations.

Using the premise that America is a contested concept, three plenary lectures in the conference will challenge participants' assumptions about "America." Plenary sessions and staged readings are free and open to the public.

The conference is the latest in a biennial series on "new literacies" organized by the KU Department of English. The series addresses the need to become literate in many ways -- written, oral, technological, cultural -- as an increasingly diverse and globalized U.S. society requires.

Participants will examine questions such as: Is America one culture or a combination of cultures? Is it a single political or economic entity, or does it extend across the Americas? Is "America" a symbol of familiar traditions or a force for change, both at home and abroad?

A leading scholar of U.S. drama, Christopher Bigby of the University of East Anglia in Great Britain, will open on Thursday, March 3. He will discuss "Arthur Miller: Un-American," in honor of the writer whose popular play "The Crucible" challenged citizens to stand up for the principle of free speech, on which their country was founded.

Internationally renowned theatre director Anne Bogart of Columbia University follows on Friday, March 4, with "Six Things I Know for Sure about the American Theatre." Founder of the New York-based Saratoga International Theatre Institute, Bogart said she formed the institute to get closer to her own American roots. "We meet people of different cultures who do things differently, and that act challenges us to grow, to become, oddly enough, more American."

On March 5, José Muñoz, New York University professor of performance studies, will assess ethnic and gender diversity within American performance culture in the session "Globalization, Tropicalization and Latina/o American Theatre and Performance."

The conference will end with a summary discussion and a production of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's 1930s social comedy "You Can't Take It with You," staged by University Theatre in Crafton-Preyer Theatre, Murphy Hall, at KU.

Presenters from the United States, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Croatia and Spain will participate in sessions such as "Politics and Religion in America," "Bridging the American Wests," "American Nativisms," "The Local and the Global in the American Classroom" and "American Continents, American Cultures."

To register for the conference, go to Additional sponsors include the KU Department of Theatre & Film, the Hall Center for the Humanities, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the American Theatre and Drama Society.


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