Final Notice: Chris Sten at Arts Club, October 4
Literary Event: Christopher Sten, author of Literary Capital: A Washington Reader
October 4, 2011 at 7:00PM
Arts Club of Washington
2017 I Street, NW
Free and Open to the Public
A Lecture and Book-Signing by Christopher Sten, author of Literary
Capital: A Washington Reader
Christopher Sten, Professor of English and American literature at George Washington University, will talk about and read from his new book, Literary Capital: A Washington Reader (University of Georgia Press, 2011). Sten began work on this collection many years ago, when it dawned on him that most of the authors on his syllabus had spent time in Washington, DC. Roaming the stacks of Washington area libraries, he began to see that almost all of them had also written about the cityin fact, enough material (two centuries' worth) to fill a small library. Yet no one had ever collected these writings or attempted to tell the larger story of Washington writing before. So he began to ask himself the question, what is Washington writing?
He discovered three significant traditions. One is formed by a group of nationally prominent authors (such as Henry Adams, Walt Whitman, Gore Vidal, and Mary McCarthy) who have written fiction or essays about national issues centered in Washington. A second is composed of native or naturalized writers (such as Jean Toomer, E. Ethelbert Miller, or George Pelecanos) who know the local scene first-hand and write about the lives of everyday Americans who happen to live in the Federal City but are not deeply invested in national politics. The third tradition sometimes overlaps the other two and is made up of a large group of African American writers (beginning with William Wells Brown and Frederick Douglass in the nineteenth century and coming up to the present with Marita Golden and Edward P. Jones). Many in this last group happened also to play a significant role in the "New Negro" movement of the 1920s and 1930s, a movement usually identified almost exclusively with New York.
Christopher Sten came to GWU in 1970 and is a longtime Washington resident. The author or editor of several books on Herman Melville, including Savage Eye: Melville and the Visual Arts (1992), Sounding the Whale (1996), and The Weaver-God, He Weaves (1996), he is a past President of the Melville Society and a founding member of the Melville Society Cultural Project in New Bedford, Massachusetts.