The Ernest J. Gaines Center encourages university teachers and graduate students to apply to our 2016 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute, titled Ernest J. Gaines and the Southern Experience. This four-week Institute, based in Lafayette, Louisiana, takes place May 30-June 24, 2016 and will focus on bringing the work of Ernest J. Gaines into the broader conversations of American, Southern, and African American literature. Some of his works include the award-winning Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, A Lesson before Dying, and A Gathering of Old Men. One of the most widely read and highly respected authors of contemporary African American literature, Gaines is recognized for the voice that he gives to his characters, their undeniable relationships between land and community, as well as his thought-provoking portrayal of the South during the mid to late-twentieth century. Gaines’ awards include a 2000 National Humanities Medal and 1993 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
To explore Gaines and his place in the American literary canon, the institute will bring together distinguished scholars and twenty-five participants in a four-week summer program located at the Ernest J. Gaines Center at University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The Center houses the author’s manuscripts, correspondence, reviews of his works, speeches, interviews, and other items related to his life and writing. The institute will include lectures, group discussions, film screenings and the opportunity for participants to have hands-on work with the Center’s resources. Using Gaines as a foundation, participants will examine the following: general influences on Gaines, African American literary contemporaries and predecessors, and Louisiana contemporaries or predecessors. By studying the work of Ernest J. Gaines in the wider realm of Southern and American literature, scholars and participants will engage in broad, provocative discussions regarding canon formation, artistic freedom versus social responsibility, the creation of race and nation, and the effects on regional affiliation on identity. Participants will be expected to have a research project in mind during the institute. The project does not necessarily have to be focused on Gaines’s works, but centered, for example, on representations of the South in literature, the idea of influence on an artist, or the formation of the literary canon. The program will include weekly field trips to sites that have relevance to Gaines and the other featured authors, concluding with a trip to Pointe Coupée Parish, Louisiana, where Gaines lives, to view and experience the area and the land that inspired novels like A Lesson Before Dying and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. The program will conclude with presentations given by the institute’s participants.
Each week participants will partake in lectures, group discussions, movie screenings, and field trips. Monday through Thursday of each week, morning sessions will involve lectures and group discussions. One afternoon session each week will be dedicated to a film screening of an adaptation of one of Gaines’s works. Two to three afternoons each week will be reserved for participants to conduct archival research using the Ernest J. Gaines papers and the archival materials housed within the Louisiana Room in Edith Garland Dupré Library. See Institute Agenda for complete information.
Week of MAY 30
TOPIC: Introduction to the Work of Ernest J. Gaines, Influences and Regional Antecedents
VISITING SCHOLARS: John Lowe and Gary Holcomb
FIELD TRIP: Cane River Historical Park and National Heritage Area
Week of JUNE 6
TOPIC: The Jim Crow South and Residual Effects of Slavery in the Twentieth Century
VISITING SCHOLARS: Richard Yarborough and Keith Byerman
FIELD TRIP: Walking tour of Literary New Orleans
Week of JUNE 13
TOPIC: Civil Rights, Religion and Gender
VISITING SCHOLARS: Thadious Davis and Herman Beavers
FIELD TRIP: Vermilionville Living History & Folk Life Park
Week JUNE 20
TOPIC: Integration, Representation, History and Writing
VISITING SCHOLARS: Marcia Gaudet and Maria Hebert-Leiter
FIELD TRIP: New Roads, LA and Oscar, LA (Pointe Coupée Parish)
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.