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February 22, 1999

Humanities Lecture explores American identity

By Barbara McKenna

The French have Monet, China has Confucius, Russia has Dostoevsky. But who epitomizes the American voice? That's the question that Michael Cowan will explore in a talk titled, "America is Hard to Find."

Cowan, a professor of American studies and literature, notes that, "The U.S. is such a complex and multifaceted place that it's very hard to describe succinctly. Looking at works by American artists and authors, you will find an incredible range of ideas and viewpoints. Everyone who looks at this strange elephant of an animal we call America comes away with a slightly different perspective."

Cowan's talk is part of the 1998-99 Humanities Lecture Series, sponsored jointly by the Humanities Division and the Museum of Art and History. It takes place from 7 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 11, at the Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center, 705 Front St., Santa Cruz. The talk is free and open to the public. A reception follows.

Drawing from a wide range of sources in 19th- and 20th-century American literature, music, and art, Cowan will look at the questions and conflicts that emerge in trying to identify an American persona. To present this picture, Cowan will include readings, slides, and recordings from such people as Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt, Currier and Ives, Romare Bearden, Bruce Springsteen, and Simon and Garfunkel and will look at such sites as the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Angel Island.

For more information, call (831) 459-5742.

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