In between propaganda and escapism: William Faulkner as a Cold War Cultural Ambassador (Public lecture, 19th May)

Carl Van Vechten - William Faulkner, via Wikimedia Commons
Carl Van Vechten – William Faulkner, via Wikimedia Commons

After he won the Nobel Prize in 1949 William Faulkner was at the height of his reputation – a reputation that he subsequently projected on the international stage where he worked as a cultural ambassador. Professor Deborah Cohn (Indiana University, Bloomington) uncovers the secret side to one of the twentieth-century’s most important writers. This free public lecture, hosted by Durham’s Centre for Modern Conflicts and Cultures, takes place in Elvet Riverside 141 on 19th May at 17.30.

Between 1954 and 1961, the U.S. Department of State sent Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner on several goodwill missions to Latin America, Asia, and Europe. This lecture examines how the nationalist priorities and racial politics of U.S. foreign relations during the cold war permeated these trips. It further analyses how the writer, who generally shied from public engagements, became a pro-active and ardent spokesperson for democracy while abroad, and how he exercised an unusual amount of freedom to criticize the colour line in the U.S. The story that emerges from studying Faulkner’s travels ultimately reveals the complexity of the writer’s execution of his role as cultural ambassador, as well as his own doubts about the democratic system.

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