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The Human Stain: A Literary Discussion

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Race Matters: Racial Passing and the American Literary Imagination

This two-part discussion series considers representations of racial passing in two important 21st century American novels: Philip Roth’s The Human Stain (2000) and Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half (2020).  Both novels address the themes of racial identity and passing by revealing how racial identity matters. They balance the language of freedom used to describe the experience of passing with the language of violence: “vanishing,” “murder,” “killing,” and, in the case of Coleman Silk in The Human Stain, “slipping the punch.” These two novels published nearly 100 years after James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) and Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929) reveal how the American literary imagination continues to explore the effects of racial passing.  Please join us for one or both of the programs: 

Tuesday, June 1 The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett  

Tuesday, June 29 The Human Stain by Philip Roth  

Both discussions will be led by Dr. Aimee Pozorski, CCSU English Department.

About this book:

It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town an aging Classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would astonish even his most virulent accuser.

Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk’s secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled. And to understand also how Silk’s astonishing private history is, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, “magnificently” interwoven with “the larger public history of modern America.”

Please register for each discussion separately. Zoom links will be sent out before the event.


Tuesday, June 29, 2021
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Event Category:


281 Country Club Rd
Avon, CT 06001
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