Imagining the Past: Resurrected Narratives

14 May 2022
2:00 pm ET
Judson Memorial Church
 $20
Imagining-Past

The past holds secrets, occlusions, and untold stories that can both validate and pierce present assumptions. What stories are worth retrieving, and why? What are the perils of the archive? How do writers live within this tension, and can good fiction respect what is unknowable while imagining it anyway? In her essay “Venus in Two Acts,” MacArthur-winning writer and scholar Saidiya Hartman described the merits of “critical fabulation,” or intertwining research with theory and fiction to account for violent historical erasure within the archive. MacArthur-winning poet and translator and fiction writer John Keene, in his acclaimed collection Counternarratives, “counter[s], challenge[s], or subvert[s] established narratives about race and slavery in the history of the Americas” and “disrupt[s] and disorient[s] our settled notions about the agency of the enslaved and exploited, and about the intelligibility of history itself” (Kenyon Review). Recent Booker and Costa Prize finalist Nadifa Mohamed’s “determined, nuanced and compassionate exposure of injustice,” The Fortune Men, fictionalizes the story of Mahmood Mattan, a merchant seaman wrongly accused of murder and executed in Wales in 1952. Join these authors for a rich and probing discussion of their work, and how fiction can open up narrow and regressive understandings of history. This conversation will be moderated by Joy Bivins, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Please note: as of May 10, the elevator of this historic venue is non-functioning. The event space is located up stairs. Contact us at publicprograms@pen.org with questions. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience.

headshot of Joy Bivins
Joy Bivins
Nadifa Mohamed headshot
Nadifa Mohamed
John Keene headshot
John R. Keene
Saidiya Hartman headshot
Saidiya Hartman