Alabama Humanities Foundation Scholar, Dr. Elaine Hughes, will speak Thursday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m., at the Parnell Memorial Library in Montevallo. Hughes’s presentation will explore important parallels in the works of two important American authors and social critics: Mark Twain and Toni Morrison. According to Hughes, “Though writing a century apart, Mark Twain and Toni Morrison have dared to explore in their fiction the great truths underlying their cultures’ espoused attitudes and beliefs. From Twain’s indictment of the hypocrisy of the 19th Century to Morrison’s examination of contemporary society’s duality, their voices have provided readers penetrating portrayals of their fellow countrymen. An examination of the historical, political and biographical contexts of major works by these authors reveals the parallels in their social criticism—of the post-Civil-War era and the post-Civil-Rights period in America. ‘Morrison and Twain: The Black and White of It’ is a presentation that attempts to put before an audience those questions about ourselves that we have difficulty confronting: our beliefs, our prejudices, our fears. Through examination of works by two major American writers—writing during tumultuous times in our country—we can understand those elements in our society that shape us and perhaps seek a better understanding of ourselves. Racism was at the root of the problems resulting from slavery; racism remains today at the root of many of our social problems. Literature can provide the vehicle by which each of us, and thus our society, can make that painful journey to self understanding.”
For the past 35 years, Hughes has been a professor of American literature at the University of Montevallo, with a specialty in contemporary literature. She has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in Southern literature and in Alabama literature. She has delivered more than 200 lectures to varied audiences—from high-school honors students to retirees in UAB’s New Horizons—in many locations. In 1998-1999, she received the Carnegie Foundation CASE Professor of the Year Award for Alabama and was the 2007 Recipient of the Eugene Current-Garcia Distinguished Scholar Award. Hughes has been involved with the Alabama Humanities Foundation since 1978 and chaired the board of directors from 2004-2006. She holds the honor of professor emerita from the University of Montevallo.
Barbara Belisle, Mary Jo Buff, Lelia Mitchell, Robin Norsworthy, Mary Lou Williams, and Thomasyne Hill Smith will read from American authors Toni Morrison and Mark Twain. Event sponsors are the Montevallo Branch of AAUW, Alabama Humanities Foundation, and Parnell Memorial Library. All are welcome.