Public Humanities Lecture
Lehigh University, April 6-8, 2016.
“I don’t know where it comes from, but I like to listen to people who have been sidelined for one reason or another, because when they start to talk they tell you things you won’t hear from anyone else.” Those are words were spoken by the author W.G. Sebald. What tools do we use to find and then understand these sidelined stories and hidden voices? My talk public humanities talk featured the words of slaves buried deep in British parliamentary papers, those of of poor, illiterate single mothers tucked into the Foundling Hospital archives in London, as well as the stories of some 50 people I interviewed as part of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project, people who lived close to the land and knew how to listen to and translate the language of plants, animals, and the entire wilderness ecosystem. The talk emphasized the value of research that engages with not only literary and historical texts, but also communities and local environments.