Critical Perspectives Series

The Critical Perspectives series aims to bring the analytical insights of scholars, theorists, and critics working in literary and cultural studies into our English classrooms and broader academic community at UNC Asheville. A complement to our Visiting Writers series, Critical Perspectives draws no hard line between “creative” and “critical” work but gives focus to speakers who model contemporary modes of analysis in literary fields. Series topics correspond with and enrich current classes offered by English faculty, and collectively range across various approaches and subjects (historical, cultural, theoretical, formal) in contemporary literary studies.   


Fall 2021

Dr. Cord Whitaker (Wellesley College): Wednesday October 27, at 5:15 pm

“The Harlem Middle Ages: W.E.B. Du Bois and Global Black Medievalism”

Toward the end of his life and career, African American sociologist and activist W.E.B. Du Bois writes of the “enlightened and civilized society of Europe in the thirteenth century” and compares it to an aberrant and “degraded” modernity. This view of modernity stands in stark contrast to the ascendant modernism of the early twentieth century, the period which comprised the height of Du Bois’s career. This talk introduces Du Bois’s medievalism and posits it as a device to promote the ends of racial justice by identifying the exclusion of blacks from the medieval past and strategically recasting the European Middle Ages as a global cultural phenomenon in which black Americans and Africa alike are integral. Examining Du Bois’s fictional, sociological, and historical writings, this talk traces Du Bois’s deployments of the Middle Ages from the first decade of the twentieth century to just after the second World War in order to consider how African American thinkers of the early twentieth century, in the contexts of global conflict, use the Middle Ages as an epistemic tool. How, the talk asks, does medievalism facilitate African Americans’ struggles for equality and justice—in the US and abroad?

This event has concluded. Thank you to everyone who attended.

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Dr. Ari Friedlander (University of Mississippi): Tuesday November 16, at 7:00 pm

“From Babel to Biopolitics: Class, Sexuality and Race in Early Modern English Rogue Literature”

Dr. Friedlander’s talk will examine the representation of rogues and Romani people in Thomas Dekker’s Lantern and Candlelight (1608), arguing that their depiction as allegedly troublesome social groups portrays them as sub-populations whose labor and sexuality require proper governance. As Friedlander will show, the invention of English biopolitics—the governmental supervision and regulation of bodies—is intimately tied to the construction and maintenance of low social status, which is marked by the (supposed) sexual promiscuity and racial otherness. This talk comes from Friedlander’s forthcoming book Rogue Sexuality: Desire, Status and Biopolitics in Early Modern English Literature (Oxford University Press, 2022).

This event is free and open to the public, but you must register at:


Past Events