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Edwidge Danticat Presents Keynote Speech for Humanities Symposium

Kelly Webber
Web Manager

“Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. That is what I’ve always thought it meant to be a writer. Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them” –Edwidge Danticat

For the past week, the Center for Public Humanities has engaged campus with photographs, exhibits, and panels addressing the theme of the 2018 Humanities Symposium: Home. Bestselling author Edwidge Danticat explored concepts of Home as Grief and Home as Body in her Keynote Address on Thursday in Parmer Cinema.

“Danticat explores the tensions and complexities of home in really provocative and beautiful ways,” Director of the Center for Public Humanities Dr. Jean Corey said. One way Danticat leaned into the tension of home was by expressing the definition of home as a Haitian immigrant. Her books, such as Krik? Krak! and The Dewbreaker delve into the complicated and sometimes messy definition of home when home “is the mouth of a shark,” alluding to a poem by Warsan Shire.

Throughout the lecture, Danticat presented several definitions and concepts of home. She discussed home as words and how she found her own home in the pages of her own writing, home as the body, touching on the difficulties of sexual assault survivors rediscovering the body as home and home as one another, using the Good Samaritan story as an example.

Many students expressed their appreciation for Danticat’s words. “Danticat is boldly vulnerable where her past is concerned and strong in the creativity of her words,” Junior Ian Tan said.

“[Danticat is] abundant in richness, vulnerability and fearlessness – on the line of feisty yet tasteful,” Junior Rachael Borden said.

The Keynote Speaker’s address is often well-attended, but Danticat’s words appear to have resonated with students on an unprecedented level. Several professors have given her texts as assigned reading, such as Dr. Kerry Hasler Brooks, who used The Dewbreaker and Create Dangerously in her Introduction to English Studies course.

Hasler Brooks delivered the introduction for Danticat at the Keynote Address, and many of her students asked insightful questions in the Q&A session based on their reading of her text. Danticat responded to literary, personal, and political questions with grace and eloquence.

In her concluding remarks, Corey announced the theme of the 2019 Humanities Symposium: the Common Good.

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