English Dept.'s Cooper Series Examines African American Poet

The William G. Cooper, Jr., Honors Program in English at UALR hosts a lecture on poet Phillis Wheatley, a forerunner of the African American literary tradition, by Illinois State scholar John Shields at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 11.

The lecture in Room D at UALR’s Donaghey Student Center, is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the lecture. For more information, contact Dr. Zabelle Stodola, director of the William G. Cooper, Jr., Honors Program in English at UALR, kzstodola@ualr.edu and (501) 569-3161.

Shields, a distinguished professor of English at Illinois State, is an international authority on this complex and contradictory figure who arguably stands at the head of the entire African American literary tradition. His reinterpretation of Wheatley is, as he says, “devoted to redirecting attention away from the phenomenon of her condition as a slave toward a fair and balanced consideration of her texts.”

The author of more than 100 articles and books, Shields has served on three national literary boards, and received four National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowships, a NEH Conference Grant, and a fellowship in Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities, among other grants.

Shields’ 2001 publication of The American Aeneas: Classical Origins of the American Self garnered two national awards and led him to found the Center for Classicism in American Culture. He has also published an edition of Wheatley’s work with Oxford University Press and authored the recently published book Phillis Wheatley’s Poetics of Liberation: Backgrounds and Contexts.

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