Common text events begin next week

The St. Thomas English Department will present a student panel discussion, a documentary film and lectures by Michelle Cliff, author of Abeng, the novel chosen as this fall’s freshman common text at St. Thomas:

  • Noon-1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, in Room 126, John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts: A panel of four UST students, three of whom are from the Caribbean, will discuss the book. The students are: Andretta Colley from Jamaica, Sharifa Charles from St. Lucia, Danielle Lecorps from Haiti, and Sara Ford from Texas. All have read and studied the novel. Colley has done on-site research on some of the places described in the novel with Dr. Robert Werner of the UST Geography Department. Dr. D. Todd Lawrence of the English Department will moderate the discussion.
  • 7-9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, in Room 126, John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts: “Life and Debt,” Stephanie Black’s 2001 documentary examines the effect of the International Monetary Fund on the economy of Jamaica. It also offers a historical understanding of postcolonial Jamaican society and its continuous struggle to survive in the face of an externally imposed debt economy. It also urges viewers to look closely at larger issues of privilege and poverty.
  • Noon-1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium: Author Michelle Cliff will speak about Abeng. The lecture will be recorded and broadcast at 7 p.m. in the auditorium for those unable to attend the noon session. Cliff’s talk is co-sponsored by the University Lectures Committee.
  • 3:30-5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, in Room 304, Murray-Herrick Campus Center: Cliff will speak about “Race, Gender and Justice,” explaining gender as a category of analysis in the context of race, class, ethnicity and nationality. Co-sponsors of this event are the Luann Dummer Center for Women, the American Cultural Studies program and the Center for Faculty Development.

Each year since 1985, the St. Thomas English Department has selected freshman common texts based on literary merit and their portrayal of racial, cultural, economic and ethnic diversity issues.

Abeng, first published in 1984, and Cliff’s other novels “evoke both the clearly delineated hierarchies of colonial Jamaica and the subtleties of present-day island life” (back cover, Plume edition, 1995).

The UST English Department noted the country’s “brutal politics of slavery and colonialism” and wrote that the author “peels back the layers of history, represented both in the colonial education system and in the indigenous stories of resistance and heroism, chronicling the struggles and aspirations of Clare Savage, a young girl of mixed ancestry. Though a child of privilege, Savage must navigate a world characterized by the complex and often treacherous divisions of color, class and gender” (fall 2005 Common Text Web site).

For more information on common text events, please call the English Department, (651) 962-5600.