Cornille Lecture with Carla Kaplan

"Queen of the Muckrakers: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford"

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 4:30pm
Location: GRH-237 Newhouse Lounge, GRH-235 Newhouse Conference Rm, GRH-240 Newhouse Conference Rm

Mary L. Cornille Lecture

Thursday, April 17, 2014, 4:30PM

Newhouse Center for the Humanties, Green Hall/Free and Open to the Public

"Queen of the Muckrakers: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford"

A talk by Carla Kaplan, Mary Cornille Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley College and the Stanton W. and Elizabeth K. Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Northeastern University

Since writing Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, Kaplan's work has gravitated to hybrid forms (biography and letters; group biography and cultural history; theory and narrative), using extensive primary archives to illuminate people who walk away from lives which others covet, envy, and idealize. Her recent book, Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance (Harper Collins, 2013), traces six unlikely lives as they cross rigid racial lines viewed as impermeable in the 1920's.

Described by reviewers as "remarkable," "clear-sighted," "compelling," "fascinating," and "amazing," it has been named one of the "Ten Best" books of the year (Publisher's Weekly) and is a New York Times "Notable" book. Kaplan will speak about her next project, Queen of the Muckrakers: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford: a biography of a woman who walked away from British aristocracy to become an American activist and eventually revitalize one of the oldest and most venerable forms of American narrative nonfiction: muckraking. The daughter of a wealthy British peer, Decca, as she was known, was the second-youngest and in many ways the most intriguing of the famous "Mitford Girls," known also as the "Mad Mitfords." Decca both adored her family and was determined to escape it. Kaplan's biography follows Decca as she runs away from England with her second cousin, fights in the Spanish Civil War, makes her way to Miami and becomes a Communist, is trained as an activist by Virginia and Clifford, fights for racial and economic justice in Oakland, and becomes a celebrated writer.