Toni Morrison the subject of Gellman lecture March 5

In honor of Cornell’s sesquicentennial, the English department will recognize Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, M.A. ‘55, one of its most distinguished alumni, as the subject of the annual Wendy Rosenthal Gellman Lecture on Modern Literature.


Noted Morrison scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin will deliver “‘We Do Language’: History, Meaning & Language in the Novels of Toni Morrison,” Thursday, March 5 at 4:30 p.m. in Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall.

Morrison, the American novelist, editor and professor, received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. She won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the American Book Award for “Beloved,” and in 2012, President Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Griffin’s Who Set You Flowin’?: The African American Migration Narrative’ set an entire generation of scholars in motion,” says English professor Margo Natalie Crawford. “Professor Griffin’s latest book, ‘Harlem Nocturne,’ is as groundbreaking. She is one of the most influential scholars of African American literature and music.”

Griffin is the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African American Studies at Columbia University. She also serves as program director for the Schomburg Center's Scholars-in-Residence Program. Her primary interests are in American and African American literature, music, history and politics.

Her other books include “If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday” (2001); her forthcoming book “Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women,” co-edited with historians Mia Bay, Martha Jones and Barbara Savage, is scheduled for release in April.

The annual Wendy Rosenthal Gellman Lecture on Modern Literature brings distinguished scholars of modern literature, at the invitation of the English Department, to speak at Cornell about their field of specialty. The lecture series was established by a gift from Wendy Rosenthal Gellman ‘81, who majored in English at Cornell, as an expression of her appreciation to English department faculty for instilling in her a lifelong love of learning and literature.

In addition to the Gellman lecture, Griffin will offer a seminar on Morrison on Wednesday, March 4, from noon to 2 p.m. in the English Lounge, 258 Goldwin Smith Hall. The public is welcome but RSVP is required; email

For more information, email or call 607-255-7847.

Linda B. Glaser is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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