Let Your Talent Be Your Guide

Keynote speaker: Charles Johnson, professor emeritus, University of Washington, author of novels, short stories, screen- and teleplays, and essays - Faculty Book Celebration 2022
There’s so much to celebrate, and so many ways to join in! 
Virtual Book Display
How I Made This Book

February 23-April 1, 2022
Pop-up exhibit, The Magic in His Hands: Charles Johnson’s Artistic Versatility
Special Collections Reading Room, Olin Library 
Monday-Friday, 9 am-5 pm

Thursday, March 3
12 pm  |  Panel discussion, “Reflections on Craft: Connecting Creative and Scholarly Practice” | Olin Library, Room 142
4 pm  |  Keynote lecture and Washington University faculty speakers (below) | Umrath Lounge

Given the conditions of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this event will be staged in a hybrid format.

All are invited to attend virtually via Zoom, and we hope members of the Washington University community who are able will attend in person. In-person attendance is limited by seating capacity. 

To register via Zoom, follow these links for the panel discussion and the lectures.

To register for in-person attendance at either event (WashU only), follow this link.

Keynote lecture

“Let Your Talent Be Your Guide”

4 pm | Umrath Lounge

In this presentation, Charles Johnson describes the journey that took him from being a cartoonist and journalist in his late teens and early twenties to becoming a novelist, philosopher, literary scholar, essayist, short story and screen writer, and a college professor. The spirit of this journey is captured in a statement by John Muir: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Charles Johnson, professor emeritus, University of Washington, is the Pollock Professor of English, author of 16 books, among them the novels Middle Passage, Oxherding Tale, Faith and the Good Thing, and Dreamer; the story collections: The Sorcerer's Apprentice (nominated for a PEN/Faulkner award), Soulcatcher and Other Stories, and Dr. King's Refrigerator and Other Bedtime Stories; and works of philosophy and criticism such as Being and Race: Black Writing Since 1970 and Turning the Wheel: Essays on Buddhism and Writing. He is also a screenwriter, essayist, professional cartoonist, international lecturer, and for 20 years served as fiction editor of Seattle Review. He received the 1990 National Book Award (fiction) for Middle Passage, NEA and Guggenheim fellowships, a Writers Guild Award for his PBS drama Booker, two Washington State Governor’s Awards for literature, the Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and numerous other prizes and honorary degrees. In 1998 he received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship (“genius” grant), and in 2003 literary scholars founded the Charles Johnson Society at the American Literature Association.

Read more about Washington University Libraries’ recent acquisition of Charles Johnson’s papers, and take a look at the Library’s preview of his papers.

Washington University faculty speakers

Two members of the Washington University faculty will speak on their own new book releases.

Diana Montaño

Assistant Professor, Department of History

Electrifying Mexico: Technology and the Transformation of a Modern City (University of Texas Press, 2021)

Many visitors to Mexico City’s 1886 Electricity Exposition were amazed by their experience of the event, which included magnetic devices, electronic printers, and a banquet of light. It was both technological spectacle and political messaging, for speeches at the event lauded President Porfirio Díaz and bound such progress to his vision of a modern order. Diana J. Montaño explores the role of electricity in Mexico’s economic and political evolution, as the coal-deficient country pioneered large-scale hydroelectricity and sought to face the world as a scientifically enlightened “empire of peace.” She is especially concerned with electrification at the social level. Ordinary electricity users were also agents and sites of change. Montaño documents inventions and adaptations that served local needs while fostering new ideas of time and space, body and self, the national and the foreign. Electricity also colored issues of gender, race, and class in ways specific to Mexico. Complicating historical discourses in which Latin Americans merely use technologies developed elsewhere, Electrifying Mexico emphasizes a particular national culture of scientific progress and its contributions to a uniquely Mexican modernist political subjectivity.

Julia Walker

Associate Professor, Department of English
Associate Professor and Chair, Performing Arts Department

Performance and Modernity: Enacting Change on the Globalizing Stage (Cambridge University Press, 2021)

How do ideas take shape? How do concepts emerge into form? This book argues that they take shape quite literally in the human body, often appearing on stage in new styles of performance. Focusing on the historical period of modernity, Performance and Modernity: Enacting Change on the Globalizing Stage demonstrates how the unforeseen impact of economic, industrial, political, social and psychological change was registered in bodily metaphors that took shape on stage. In new styles of performance-acting, dance, music, pageantry, avant-garde provocations, film, video and networked media — this book finds fresh evidence for how modernity has been understood and lived, both by stage actors, who, in modelling new habits, gave emerging experiences an epistemological shape, and by their audiences, who, in borrowing the strategies performers enacted, learned to adapt to a modernizing world.

Panel discussion

“Reflections on Craft: Connecting Creative and Scholarly Practice”

12 pm  |  Olin Library, Room 142

Moderated by Ignacio Infante, associate professor of comparative literature and Spanish; and associate director, Center for the Humanities

Faculty Book Celebration keynote speaker Charles Johnson will join a panel of Washington University faculty.

Scroll to the top of the page for registration for online or in-person (WashU only) attendance.

Co-sponsored by University Libraries