Kurt Vonnegut and “Quality of Place” in America’s Midwest
Krzysztof Michałek Memorial Lecture
prof. Edwarda P. Comentale
24 maja 2019, 13:00
This talk introduces my work developing cultural programs with rural communities in Indiana, and then explores how Vonnegut's fiction provides ways of thinking through difficult questions about the state's identity, culture, and politics. After a close look at Vonnegut's depictions of Indiana and its people in his novels, I examine how the author places the Midwest's cultural history squarely at the center of United States history and makes it representative of the problems that currently plague the nation at large. A widening class divide, political radicalization, the collapse of civic discourse—Vonnegut's writing locates both the causes and potential corrections to these issues in the traditions and communities he knew in the Midwest and then makes a case for writing and storytelling as essential to restoring the country's democratic institutions.
Edward P. Comentale is Professor of English, Associate Vice Provost for Arts and Humanities, and Director of the Arts and Humanities Council at Indiana University Bloomington. He is the author of Modernism, Cultural Production, and the British Avant-Garde and Sweet Air: Modernism, Regionalism, and American Popular Song. He co-edits a scholarly book series on fan cultures for Indiana University Press, through which he's published The Year's Work in Lebowski Studies and The Year's Work at the Zombie Research Center.