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Fall 2011 Seminar

Crossing Boundaries

The Fall 2011 Seminar will focus on geographic, national, racial/ethnic, and gender role boundaries and the myriad ways in which those boundaries were crossed and re-crossed between 1492 and 1900 as Europeans traversed the Atlantic, indigenous people con-fronted newcomers, and Africans crossed the ocean and cultures, usually by force. It will also emphasize the constructions and representations of identities in the border spaces.

Frontiers, borders, and "middle grounds" define the geographic and cultural spaces that shape the experiences of people living in locations where interactions with “others” are common. “Boundary crossing” is an especially rich topic for research in the humanities and social sciences—and especially for the unique collections of the Newberry Library.

During the first half of the semester we will meet regularly to explore the Newberry’s collections and to discuss common texts including Native Americans’ representations of Europeans, slaves’ own accounts of their lives, popular fiction, photographs, and music. We will also study maps to understand how people and ideas “flowed” across geographic and national boundaries.  In addition we will study theories about boundaries, their crossings, and the cultural genesis that occurs in those border spaces.

During the second half of the semester, students will conduct original, extensive research using the Newberry Library’s multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural resources.  Throughout the semester we will examine the role of scholarly conversation and debate in shaping inquiry (the questions scholars ask), research (investigation into the sources), and writing (framing conclusions).

Newberry Resources

A map hand-drawn by Christopher Columbus.  Photo courtesy of the Newberry Library.

For participants in the Fall 2011 Seminar, the Newberry Library’s collections hold extraordinary riches for exploring the topic of boundary crossing. Countless opportunities exist for significant independent research in many fields.  History majors and Art students can investigate the Edward E. Ayer Collection which contains 1,350 single manuscripts and manuscript collections written by both whites and Indians as well as photographs and art works.  Students from any discipline with a reading knowledge of French, German, Spanish, Latin or Portuguese will be able to delve into seldom-used texts in those languages by individuals who crossed geographic borders throughout the Americas such as Humboldt’s 1811 account of Mexican culture including its technological achievements, Dominican friars’ accounts of their missions among the Mixtec and Chochona peoples of Mexico, or early French accounts of their settlements in the Caribbean, Canada, or New Orleans. Creative Writing majors can examine nineteenth-century mid-western literary journals such as the Prairie Flower.  Women’s/Gender Studies students can compare the ways in which gender roles operated among groups that met in the “borderlands” of contact.  Religion majors might want to explore new acquisitions from Lane Theological Seminary in the context of antebellum American Protestantism.  And Music students can explore the Driscoll collection of early U.S. printed sheet music.



Beloit College, English

For more information, go to Diane Lichtenstein's Beloit faculty page.


Beloit College, History

For more information, go to Linda Sturtz's Beloit faculty page.