What can a scientist bring to the reading of classic literature? Ornithologist David Spector presents the case that expertise outside of literature affords new insight into novels and the writing practices of their authors.
Spector will illustrate his point in a 3:30 p.m. lecture on Wednesday (July 20) in the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room. He will focus on Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man, one of the classics of American literature.
Ellison moves his novel’s protagonist from the American South to Manhattan, through violence, politics, friendship, betrayal, and isolation, with comment on race and class. He accomplishes this complex narration using birds to set scene, plot, and character.
The talk gives enough background on the novel and enough information about the birds that people who have not read the book or who know little about birds will be able to follow the argument. Ultimately that argument goes beyond birds and one novel; the case is that one’s expertise in fields distant from literature can usefully inform the reading of classics.
Spector holds a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is a professor of ornithology at Central Connecticut State University.
He publishes natural history columns in his local newspaper and is a former board president of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst, Massachusetts. He has given over 80 talks to nature centers, bird clubs, museums, retirement communities, and libraries.
Written by Leah Hewitt, Academy Village Volunteer