NEH Summer Institute on Ernest J. Gaines and the Southern Experience

full name / name of organization: 
Cheylon Woods/ University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Deadline: March 1, 2016
Dates: May 30-June 24, 2016 (4 weeks)
Location: Lafayette, LA
For more information: Contact Cheylon Woods at (337) 482-1848

The Ernest J. Gaines Center encourages university teachers and graduate students to apply to our 2016 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute, titled "Ernest J. Gaines and the Southern Experience". This four-week Institute, based in Lafayette, Louisiana, takes place May 30-June 24, 2016 and will focus on bringing the work of Ernest J. Gaines into the broader conversations of American, Southern, and African American literature. Some of his works include the award-winning Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, A Lesson before Dying, and A Gathering of Old Men. One of the most widely read and highly respected authors of contemporary African American literature, Gaines is recognized for the voice that he gives to his characters, their undeniable relationships between land and community, as well as his thought-provoking portrayal of the South during the mid to late-twentieth century. Gaines's awards include a 2000 National Humanities Medal and 1993 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

To explore Gaines and his place in the American literary canon, the institute will bring together distinguished visiting scholars and twenty-five participants in a four-week summer program located at the Ernest J. Gaines Center at University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The Center houses the author's manuscripts, correspondence, reviews of his works, speeches, interviews, and other items related to his life and writing. The institute will include lectures, group discussions, film screenings and the opportunity for participants to have hands-on work with the Center's resources. Using Gaines as a foundation, participants will examine the following: general influences on Gaines, African American literary contemporaries and predecessors, and Louisiana contemporaries or predecessors. By studying the work of Ernest J. Gaines in the wider realm of Southern and American literature, scholars and participants will engage in broad, provocative discussions regarding canon formation, artistic freedom versus social responsibility, the creation of race and nation, and the effects on regional affiliation on identity. Participants will be expected to have a research project in mind during the institute. The project does not necessarily have to be focused on Gaines's works, but centered, for example, on representations of the South in literature, the idea of influence on an artist, or the formation of the literary canon. The program will include weekly field trips to sites that have relevance to Gaines and the other featured authors, concluding with a trip to Pointe Coupée Parish, Louisiana, where Gaines lives, to view and experience the area and the land that inspired novels like A Lesson Before Dying andThe Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. The program will conclude with presentations given by the institute's participants.