An upcoming lecture by Adam Sonstegard, an English professor at Cleveland State University and the most recent winner of the Victor J. Emmett Jr. Memorial Award, is set to help students view a work of classic literature through the eyes of the graphic novel.
On Sept. 16, the 28th annual Victor J. Emmett Memorial Lecture will be held in the Governor’s Room of the Overman Student Center at 8 p.m. This year’s speaker, Sonstegard, will be giving a lecture entitled “A Connecticut Yankee’as an Early Graphic Novel.”
Sonstegard was chosen as the speaker for this installment of the lecture series as recipient of the Victor J. Emmett Jr. Memorial Award, an award which, according to a press release by the PSU English and Modern Languages department, is awarded “each year to the author of the best essay on a literary topic published in ‘The Midwest Quarterly,” a journal of essays and poetry published each quarter by PSU. The title of Sonstegard’s winning essay was “Outing the Midwestern ‘Bachers’ of Garland’s ‘A Little Norsk.” It was published in the fall 2020 issue of “The Midwest Quarterly.”
Sonstegard’s topic was inspired by his recent studies on visual arts and their bearing on literature.
“For a book and about 20 articles I’ve published, I bring the visual arts to bear on literature I teach from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from the original photographs works discuss to the illustrations artists included, and to the ads and distractions that appeared on the margins for nineteenth-century readers,” Sonstegard said. “I think that returning works to their original contexts and restoring their visual dimensions in their original time periods enlivens literature and sets up our ability to analyze our own publishing contexts today, from print media to e-readers to cinematic and interactive adaptations, as contexts that themselves lend meaning to the literary content. My publishing and lecturing follow from my teaching approaches, in which I try to get my audiences to profit from both visual and verbal, vocal representations of American literary culture.”
Celia Patterson, chair of the department of English and modern languages said she feels that Sonstegard’s interpretation of the novel might “expand her thoughts” about the large number of images she noticed in the novel during her last reading.
“It’s been a very long time since I read ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’…but I do remember it having images throughout the text. The fact that there are, I think, eleven film versions of the book testifies to its graphic nature. I expect to learn a lot about this aspect of the novel from Dr. Sonstegard’s lecture.”
According to the English department press release, both the Victor J. Emmett Jr. Memorial Award and the annual Victor J. Emmett Memorial Lecture are sponsored by the Emmett family, the PSU English department, and The Midwest Quarterly. Both the award and the lecture were created to honor Victor J. Emmett Jr., who was an English professor at PSU for twenty-three years.