Week 1

Thursday, February 1, 2018
4:00- 5:00 pm
STEW 302/306

Jennifer Freeman Marshall, Assistant Professor of English & Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, College of Liberal Arts, will be speaking on Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.

The Underground Railroad PULITZER PRIZE WINNER
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. A genre bending blend of historical narrative, science fiction, and adventure, The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

Praise:

“Get it, then get another copy for someone you know because you are definitely going to want to talk about it once you read that heart-stopping last page.” Oprah's Book Club

“With this novel, Colson Whitehead proves that he belongs on any short list of America's greatest authors — his talent and range are beyond impressive and impossible to ignore. The Underground Railroad is an American masterpiece, as much a searing document of a cruel history as a uniquely brilliant work of fiction.” NPR

“[I]’s as if he’s attempting to cram as many genres into one novel as possible, with science fiction meeting fantasy and a picaresque adventure tale, all against the backdrop of a reimagined 19th-century America…. I haven’t been as simultaneously moved and entertained by a book for many years. This is a luminous, furious, wildly inventive tale that not only shines a bright light on one of the darkest periods of history, but also opens up thrilling new vistas for the form of the novel itself.” The Guardian

 

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