Friends of the Libraries Event: The Depths of Astonishment: Nineteenth-Century Underground Literature

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The Depths of Astonishment: Nineteenth-Century Underground Literature

Wednesday, November 12, 12:10 PM, Scheler Humanities Forum (Room 200) Linderman Library

Subcultures are typically seen as twentieth-century phenomena. But in the U.S., the concept actually dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, which teemed with underground movements from Freemasonry to anarchism to the Underground Railroad. This talk will investigate some of the earliest literature of these undergrounds: the lurid "city mysteries" that took the urban underworld as their subject. The city mysteries reveal surprising roots to the underground, however, for in their depictions subterranean activities prove closely bound up with actual subterranean spaces, through stories of criminal gangs plotting in sewers, anti-slavery activists meeting in cellars, and revolutionaries living in caves.

Speaker: Lara Langer Cohen is assistant professor of English at Swarthmore College, and the author of The Fabrication of American Literature: Fraudulence and Antebellum Print Culture (2011)

Sponsored by the Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries