For the full program of the Lost New York conference to be held 2-3 Oct. at NYU, click here.
On Friday, 2 October, from 5:30 to 6:30, following our opening plenary panel on New Netherland and its cultural legacies, the Fales Library and Special Collections (housed on the 3rd floor of Bobst Library) will host a reception to celebrate the opening of Lost New York, 1609-2009, an exhibit curated by a group of our doctoral students to accompany the conference. (The exhibit will remain open through 6 November.) The cases highlight Fales’ holdings related to the cultural history of New York, from the recently acquired Maass collection, which contains documents related to New Amsterdam’s settlement, through periodicals, novels, and theater of the nineteenth and twentieth century, to the Downtown Collection, which focuses on the history of literature, art, and music in the Downtown scene from the 1970s and 1980s.
We’re especially pleased also to celebrate the release of a spectacularly designed catalog to accompany the exhibit. The volume contains color-illustrated essays by each of the curators. Copies will be available gratis throughout the conference. Kudos for the volume’s smashing appearance go to NYU’s Advertising and Publications crew, which has won national design awards for similar catalogs in the past: the creative team includes Dirk Rowntree, J. Geddis, Rose-Anna Stanton, and Betsey Mickel. The cover, above, should give you an idea of what to expect.
Here’s the lowdown on the volume’s contents. Durning the opening session on Saturday morning (9:15 – 10:45, 13-19 University Place, room 102), the authors will discuss the process and problems of curating their various incarnations of “Lost New York.”
1. John Easterbook, “‘we can use those folks and turn them into Hollanders’: Cosmopolitan Citizenship and Adriaen van der Donck’s Description of New Netherland“
Easterbrook explores an important text recently published in a reliable scholarly edition. Van der Donck composed the Description after the outbreak of the first Anglo-Dutch War in 1650, which had dashed his hopes of leading a reform of the government of New Amsterdam. What emerges in the Description, according to Easterbrook, “is an invocation of the colony as it existed in Van der Donck’s mind”–a city of imagination, if you will, already rooted in nostalgia for a lost past–“encompassing the vast knowledge and experience accumulated since his first arrival in New Netherland in 1641.” Easterbrook’s analysis supports the contention of historians such as Thomas Bender, Kenneth Jackson, and Russell Shorto that from its Dutch colonial origins, New York has offered a cosmopolitan alternative to the xenophobia that was prevalent in other colonies and that has come to play such a large role in the American national imaginary.
Easterbrook is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English
at New York University, where he studies the literatures of the
colonial Americas. His dissertation will explore theories of
transnationalism and the production of citizenship in colonial travel
2. Kristen Doyle Highland, “Gotham: The Other New York”
Highland traces the evolution of the name Gotham back to its appearance in a collection of medieval folk tales published in 1526. Highland shows how Irving appropriated a type that signified foolishness and used it to poke fun at New Yorkers in his satirical collection Salmagundi (coauthored during 1807-1808 with his brother William and their friend James Kirke Paulding). Irving’s literary reinvention of the city as Gotham relied on the displacement of one New York by another. “Vanished,” writes Highland, “is a New York founded on earnestness, hard work, and simple pleasures, replaced by an ‘other’ New York, a Gotham of grasping materialism. Not the silly fools of old, this new generation of Gothamites allows itself to be fooled by pretension and social artifice.” Highland recovers the irony behind the name “Gotham,” an irony generally lost to the cultural memory of New Yorkers and even disavowed by some of the city’s most eminent current historians.
Highland is a doctoral student in the English Department at New York University, specializing in Early American and antebellum literature. Her research interests include the print culture of early national America, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century popular culture, and the Atlantic world.
3. Jane Greenway Carr, “Diving in the ‘Dumps’: Myth and Performance in the Ultimate American City”
Carr investigates three little-known stage pieces by writers who were drawn to Greenwich Village in the early twentieth century: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dawn Powell, and E. E. Cummings. Carr shows how playwriting provokes these authors to explore New York mythologies that express nostalgia while trying to avoid its pitfalls. Millay’s libretto for Deems Taylor’s opera The King’s Henchmen draws on Anglo-Saxon culture but serves as a way of reimagining New York as a city of fashions and dreams. Powell’s play Walking Down Broadway reconceives the familiar motif of the Broadway promenade as a way of charting the city’s shifting physical and moral geographies. E. E. Cummings’s ballet scenario Tom becomes not only a vehicle for an exploration of the dynamics of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin but also a way of memorializing a moment in the city’s theatre history in which “Tom shows” and dramatic adaptations of Stowe’s novel were all the rage. Considering these texts together allows Carr to evoke subtleties in the texture of the heyday of Village Bohemia that are often lost in accounts that focus on works that are more canonical and more overtly centered in New York.
Carr is a doctoral student in the Department of English
at New York University, where she co-organizes the Colloquium in
American Literature and Culture. She is currently interning at the
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Her dissertation will
examine relationships between reading and occasions of citizenship.
4. John Melillo, “Secret Locations in the Lower East Side: Downtown Poetics 1960-1980”
Where Millay, Powell, and Cummings sought to evoke lost moments, the downtown artists Melillo writes about — from Ed Sanders to Richard Hell — make use of lost or forgotten spaces to create fugitive aesthetic productions in a variety of forms, from mimeographed little magazines to performances that blended music and poetry. Nonetheless, these downtown artists share with the writers whom Carr discusses a profound understanding of the power of performance. As Melillo puts it, for downtown artists, poets, and performers, “making art had a theatrical, incantatory, and celebratory element,” one that encouraged the formation of new communities around the work of local artists. Changes in the city’s demographics and real estate markets, combined with changes in media and technology, have rendered such communities yet another part of lost New York, but, as Melillo suggests, even “lost” they continue to affect the city’s cultural present.
Melillo is a PhD candidate in British and American Literature at New York University. His dissertation, “Outside In: The Sound of Noise from Dada to Punk,” examines the influence of noise on poetics and poetry through the twentieth century. John writes music criticism in a variety of online publications and plays in the NYC-based band Jodienda.