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June 29, 2005
Contact: Tom Lorenz, KU English department, (785) 864-2516 or 864-4520.

Visiting professor to speak on African American writers July 5 at KU


LAWRENCE -- Award-winning author and scholar Trudier Harris, Sitterson professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will speak on "The Scary Mason-Dixon Line: African-American Writers and the South" at 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 5, in the Johnson Room of the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas. Her talk is public and free. A reception will follow her talk in the North Gallery of Spencer Library (located behind Strong Hall).

Harris is the 2005 distinguished visiting scholar for the Multicultural Literature Institute in the KU English department, June 27 through July 8. The institute is also examining African-American writers and the South.

Her lecture title is also that of one of three book manuscripts that Harris has in progress. She has published more than 20 books including her most recent, a memoir called "Summer Snow: Reflections of a Daughter of the South." Her earlier books include "Saints, Sinners, Saviors: Strong Black Women in African-American Literature," "From Mammies to Militants: Domestics in Black American Literature" and "Exorcising Blackness: Historical and Literary Lynching and Burning Rituals." Harris won the 1987 College Language Association Creative Scholarship Award for her book "Black Women in the Fiction of James Baldwin."

Born in Alabama, Harris notes that her lecture and the institute will examine "how African-American writers hold the ball of fire known as the South in their hands, manipulate it for warmth and comfort, appreciate its brightness, and/or marvel at its destructive potential. ... A host of African-American writers born and bred in the South, including Randall Kenan, Yusef Komunyakaa, Richard Wright, Alice Walker and Margaret Walker, illustrate in their works the attractions as well as the repulsions of the 'cultured hell' of southern territory that informs their writings.

" By locating many African-American writers firmly in Southern traditions, and by illustrating how others are attracted to those traditions, we will come to better understandings of regionalism and creativity, race relations and creativity, and the South as a force in the imaginations of Southerners as well as non-Southerners."

Before joining the faculty at the University of North Carolina, Harris taught at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. She has lectured widely on her research of African-American literature and folklore. In addition to lecturing throughout the United States, she has lectured in Jamaica, Canada, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Italy, England and Northern Ireland.

She earned a Ph.D. in American literature and folklore and a master's degree in English from the Ohio State University. Her bachelor's degree in English is from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

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