Full program: Sarah Schulman and Terry Castle: a reading from The Cosmopolitans and a conversation
Video highlights: Sarah Schulman on the autobiographical nature of her fiction | Schulman and Terry Castle on the "spinster" | Schulman on racist suburbanization and gentrification
Sarah Schulman reads from her new novel, then is joined in conversation by Terry Castle.
The Cosmopolitans (The Feminist Press, 2016), Sarah Schulman’s seventeenth book, recaptures the details and texture of Greenwich Village in the late 1950s, when it was a haven for refugees from uncomprehending backgrounds—long before chain stores, gentrification, and high rents became the standard. The Cosmopolitans pays homage to Balzac’s Cousin Bette, in which a spinster, wronged by her family, vows to get revenge. Transported from Balzac’s Paris to Schulman’s New York, the story follows Earl, a black gay actor working in a meatpacking plant, and Bette, a white secretary. The neighbors have lived in the same apartment building for thirty years, building a familial relationship after having both been rejected by their families. Their delicate bond is upended at the arrival of Bette’s relative Hortense, a young actress from Ohio. Featuring nuanced and complex representations of characters from all walks of life, The Cosmopolitans is a psychologically suspenseful historical novel that captures New York City on the cusp of great change.
Sarah Schulman is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, nonfiction writer, AIDS historian and journalist. She is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island, a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, on the Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and Faculty Advisor to Students for Justice in Palestine. Sarah is co-founder of the ACT UP Oral History Project and MIX:NY Queer Experimental Film Festival.
The writer and critic Terry Castle -- described by the late Susan Sontag as “the most expressive, most enlightening literary critic at large today” -- has taught at Stanford University since 1983. Her scholarly interests include eighteenth-century British fiction, the Gothic novel, Jane Austen, the First World War, English art and culture of the 1920s and 1930s, autobiography and biography, and gay and lesbian writing. She has published eight books on diverse subjects, including Masquerade and Civilization (1986), The Apparitional Lesbian (1993), and the prize-winning collection, The Literature of Lesbianism: A Historical Anthology from Ariosto to Stonewall (2003). She is also a well-known essayist and has written frequently for the London Review of Books, Atlantic, New Republic, Times Literary Supplement, New York Times Book Review, and other periodicals. Her latest book, The Professor and Other Writings, was published by HarperCollins in 2010. In 1997 she was named Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford. In her spare time, she is a visual artist, music and book collector, and miniature dachshund enthusiast. She lives in San Francisco.