Discover Your Island

Island University’s Texas Speaker Series Engages with Islanders about History of Quotations

November 07, 2017

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Whether relaying the latest joke or citing passages to bolster an essay, everyone quotes. To dig deeper into the history and use of quotations, the English Department at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi invited students and the community to the inaugural Texas Speaker Series, held Nov. 2 in the University Center. Dr. Claudia Stokes, Professor and Chair of English Department at Trinity University in San Antonio, headlined the event, which included an afternoon student forum and an evening lecture.

During the student seminar, Stokes engaged with a room full of literary students about how the discipline-specific methods of reading literature – everything from new criticism to post-structuralism to historicism – has changed over the years.

“We tend to think of language as equal opportunity, but I’m hoping students recognize that many common features of language and literature have a political history,” said Stokes. “Certain writers in American history had to jump through a lot of hoops to get an audience and be regarded as legitimate, while others did not.”

During her public lecture titled “Novel Commonplaces: or, Why Do Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers Quote So Much?” Stokes provided a history of quotation. She gave examples of how authors, especially those from minority groups, had to affirm their credentials and achieve a public audience by quoting a work from the literary canon.

“We believe originality is an enduring criterion of literary greatness,” said Stokes. “If we believe that, then we’re not going to take women writers and writers of color seriously because they don’t measure up to the standard that only the one percent of writers can meet.”

Dr. Sarah Salter, Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, explained that by bringing speakers likes Stokes to the Island University, it builds a robust and enthusiastic intellectual community.

“Dr. Stokes thinks hard – and gets others to think hard – on what assumptions underline the work that we do now, like with quotations,” said Salter. “I ask my students to use quotation marks around text all the time, and so does everyone else. Stokes questions the history of quotations.”

Stokes specializes in nineteenth-century American literature and has authored several books and numerous articles. At Trinity University, she teaches on the subjects of nineteenth-century American women writers, realism and naturalism, sentimentalism and feminist theory. She was awarded the Florence Howe Award for feminist scholarship by the Women’s Caucus of Modern Languages and was recently elected to the Executive Committee of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists.                      

The Texas Speaker Series was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support was provided by the A&M-Corpus Christi Department of English. As a C19 Circuit event, this talk was co-sponsored by C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists.