SSAWW Newsletter Fall 2014 is available

The SSAWW Newsletter is available here:

This newsletter has grown a lot since we moved it online after the members voted to do so in Spring 2010. It used to be 6-8 pages long, and now it is 27, since printing and mailing costs are not a factor.  The links in the online version are clickable, and there’s no paper to recycle.

Even better, the money that used to go to printing and mailing is now used to support graduate student travel to the SSAWW conferences.

NY Times: Coming Soon, a Century Late: A Black Film Gem

For decades, the seven reels from 1913 lay unexamined in the film archives of the Museum of Modern Art. Now, after years of research, a historic find has emerged: what MoMA curators say is the earliest surviving footage for a feature film with a black cast. It is a rare visual depiction of middle-class black characters from an era when lynchings and stereotyped black images were commonplace. What’s more, the material features Bert Williams, the first black superstar on Broadway. Williams appears in blackface in the untitled silent film along with a roster of actors from the sparsely documented community of black performers in Harlem on the cusp of the Harlem Renaissance. Remarkably, the reels also capture behind-the-scenes interactions between these performers and the directors.


Comment: This is good news indeed.

Archive or trash?–and who owns it?

At The Atlantic, “The Man Who Made Off with Updike’s Trash” asks, more or less, when is an archive not an archive? When it’s trash?  In this case, a man who on a whim took some of John Updike’s trash years ago continued the practice and now has an archive of discarded pieces. 

Moran has kept thousands of pieces of Updike’s garbage—a trove that he says includes photographs, discarded drafts of stories, canceled checks, White House invitations, Christmas cards, love letters, floppy disks, a Mickey Mouse flip book, and a pair of brown tasseled loafers. It is a collection he calls “the other John Updike archive,” an alternative to the official collection of Updike’s papers maintained by Harvard’s Houghton Library. The phrase doubles as the name of the disjointed blog he writes, and it raises fundamental questions about celebrity, privacy, and who ultimately determines the value and scope of an artist’s legacy.

The blog is at, and it reproduces all kinds of print materials, including full letters from Updike (with no copyright restrictions? That seems unlikely). 

As the Atlantic article and his biographer Adam Begley points out, Updike was a pretty fair curator of his own legacy, sorting materials and dropping them off at Harvard.

What, then, should scholars make of the alternative archive or trash archive or whatever it should be called?  Should it figure into scholarship on Updike? Does thoroughness demand that scholars working on Updike work from both?


Jack London in the News: Lost Jack London letter from 1905 found in local library

Jack London Society

jack-londonFrom the New York Post:

Volunteers at Pequot Library in Southport, Conn., were sifting through “all but forgotten” rare books in a storage closet for the library’s 125th anniversary recently, when they found the old copy of “White Fang.” “When we opened the book, we found London’s letter [dated 1905] taped to the inside flyleaf,” said Lynne Laukhuf, one of two volunteers who found the treasure.

The 1906 volume had belonged to London’s legendary New York publisher George Brett, and the letter informed him of the destined-to-be-classic’s progress, along with words of advice.

“‘White Fang’ is moving along and longer than I originally intended,” London typed. “It is now past 50,000 [words] and still growing. I don’t know what to think of it. I’m too close to it; but it ought to be pretty good stuff.”

The writer also warned Brett — who took over Macmillan Publishing in…

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