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

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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”

This talk explores how biopolitics informs intersectional approaches to the construction and operation of the early modern categories of sexuality, status, and race. In particular, I will be looking at the biopolitical representation of rogues and Romani people in Thomas Dekker’s Lantern and Candlelight (1608), arguing that Dekker rhetorically ties these allegedly troublesome social groups to the biblical story of the tower of Babel in order to portray them as sub-populations whose labor and sexuality require proper governance. Dekker’s biopolitical project is a complicated rhetorical gambit that both asserts and moderates the otherness of undesirable social groups, which are simultaneously sexualized and racialized yet also desexualized and deracialized. In this text, the invention of English biopolitics — which is often considered a result of modernizing medical and scientific developments — is intimately tied to the construction and maintenance of low social status. At the same time, early modern England’s social hierarchy develops through the construction of sexual incontinence and racial otherness.

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


Past Events