April 13: Scholar in the Library talk

UDLAPS Scholar in the Library series to feature Sarah Wasserman on 1939 World's Fair

Sarah Wasserman, assistant professor in the English department, will present "Mourning the World of Tomorrow: Ephemera and the 1939 New York World's Fair" at noon, Wednesday, April 13, in the Class of 1941 Lecture Room in the Morris Library as part of the University of Delaware Library Assembly of Professional Staff (UDLAPS) Scholar in the Library series.

The brown-bag luncheon program is open to the public. Light refreshments will be available.

Wasserman's talk is based on a section of her current book project, The Death of Things: Ephemera in America, which is an interdisciplinary study that explores the stories of loss told by the vanishing objects in contemporary American literature and popular culture.

In her presentation at Morris Library, she will revisit the 1939 New York World's Fair to examine how the "world of tomorrow" staged monuments to a better future that paradoxically highlighted their own disappearance. She will discuss the fair itself as an iconic object for the study of material culture and as an event that illuminates a particular historical moment – that oasis between the Great Depression and the Second World War.

She will then turn to E.L. Doctorow's 1989 novel World's Fair and Michael Chabon's 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – two novels that focus on the fair's ephemeral nature in order to expose the fragility of its future visions. Her talk will conclude by briefly considering the impact that contemporary digital practices have on the afterlife of the World's Fair and its many objects. 

As scholars of material culture respond to digitization and a range of web-based innovations, the central dynamics of ephemera shift and take on new urgency. What happens when we preserve ephemeral objects long past their natural lives? Taken together, the 1939 New York World's Fair, its representation in contemporary fiction, and its recent appearance in digital forms speak to these questions and show how objects continue to impress themselves on our imagination, even as they vanish.

From UDaily article published 4/1/2016.

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