Facing the Facts: The Personal Essay and American Crisis Discourse in the 1960s

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Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Wednesday, December 2, 20203:30PM - 5:00PMOnline Event, Online Event
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CSUS Graduate Student Workshop


How did the sudden authority granted to personal experience during the 1960s impact fact-based public discourse? This talk examines the role of the fact in the personal essays of James Baldwin and Joan Didion, two midcentury writers who negotiated some of the toughest problems posed in and by American public life. Though Baldwin and Didion each have different justifications and styles for bringing their personal identities to bear on public issues, their essays participate in a shared midcentury project of interrogating—even reimagining—the relationship between public discourse and personal experience. In so doing, both essayists demonstrate the ways in which the personal is an asset to fact-based discourse and not merely a threat to it.

Speaker Bio:
Stephanie Redekop is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of Toronto, with co-enrolment in the Collaborative Graduate Program in Jewish Studies. She is a Junior Fellow at Massey College and the Co-Director of the University of Toronto’s American Literature Research Collaborative. Her dissertation charts a literary history of American public discourse in the 1960s, tracing how eight midcentury essayists model a range of strategies for replenishing fact-based public discourse, especially through recourse to its putative opposites: subjectivity, fiction, feelings, and faith. Her research is supported by a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, a SSHRC Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement, and a CSUS Graduate Research grant.


Mio Otsuka


Stephanie Redekop
PhD Candidate, Department of English, University of Toronto

Alexandra Rahr
Bissell-Heyd Lecturer, Centre for the Study of the United States, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto

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