Kristi Henderson
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Renowned African-American literary, cultural scholar to lecture at KU

Fri, 03/22/2013

LAWRENCE – Houston A. Baker Jr., a scholar known for his critiques of African-American literature and theory, will present a public lecture at the University of Kansas.

“Why Are Black Public Intellectuals Afraid of the Ocean?: Slave Ships, Diaspora Literacy, and Cultural Erasures in the Age of Obama” will be the topic of discussion for Baker, a distinguished university professor at Vanderbilt University.

The lecture will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, in the Big 12 Room of the Kansas Union. A book signing will follow. The event is hosted by the Department of English as the 2013 installment of its American Lecture series.

Baker’s literary and cultural criticism focuses on African-American arts and politics. His latest book, “Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era,” was honored with an American Book Award in 2009. Other titles include “I Don’t Hate the South: Reflections on Faulkner, Family, and the South” (2007) and “Turning South Again: Re-Thinking Modernism/Re-Reading Booker T” (2001).

“Houston Baker is one of the most prolific scholars of our time with his books, trenchant critiques and intellectual engagement in the field of literary studies,” said Byron Caminero-Santangelo, associate professor of English. “He has been at the center of paradigm shifts in the ways we teach and write about music and literature, African-American and ethnic literature, and Southern studies. His reach is broad and his expertise wide-ranging. His latest book is sure to invite lively debate.”

Baker is past president of the Modern Language Association. He has been recognized for his scholarly activities as a Guggenheim Fellow and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow.  In addition to his scholarly books, he has written several groundbreaking articles and essays. He is also a creative writer who has published his poems in a volume called “Passing Over.”

The Department of English is part of KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which encourages learning without boundaries in its more than 50 departments, programs and centers. Through innovative research and teaching, the College emphasizes interdisciplinary education, global awareness and experiential learning. It is the broadest and most diverse academic unit at KU.

Matt Menzenski, a graduate student in Slavic languages & literatures, took this photo during President Obama’s speech at KU Thursday. Menzenski says he was struck by how relaxed the president was in his delivery. He missed a chance to hear former President Bill Clinton speak in his hometown in 2004, but finally got to see a sitting president this week at KU. “The opportunity to hear the president speak is just one of many great opportunities I've had at KU. So many interesting talks and events happen here all the time. I try to attend at least one a week-- it's never hard to find something interesting to go to.” Tags: University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences KU School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures KU Dept of Slavic Languages - Friends & Alumni Barack Obama The White House #exploreKU #POTUSatKU

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Explore KU: The Bells of Mount Oread KU’s Campanile, a 120-foot-tall timepiece that tolls automatically on the hour and quarter-hour, not only sounded in the 2015 New Year at midnight with 12 mighty gongs, but also regularly rings up memories for many Jayhawks – the 277 faculty and students who gave their lives during World War II, the graduates who walk through its doors at commencement, and aspiring students who have strolled through the Lawrence campus. (See For nearly 60 years, KU’s 53-bell carillon has been tolling the sounds of peace and serenity across Mount Oread since it was installed in June 1955 inside the landmark World War II Memorial Campanile, which was dedicated in 1951. (See The carillon is also a four-octave musical instrument, which is played with a giant keyboard and foot pedals. University Carillonneur Elizabeth Egber-Berghout (, associate professor of carillon and organ, climbs 77 steps up a spiral staircase in the bell tower to perform recitals several times a month.

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