Race, Religion & Ritual Afro-Cuban Poets in the Age of Revolution

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Matthew Pettway

Assistant Professor of Spanish, Bates College

Dr. Pettway is the Fall 2013 Langston Hughes Professor and visiting in the Spanish and Portuguese Department where he is teaching two classes. Since 1977 the professorship has brought scholars in a range of disciplines to campus in honor of Langston Hughes, the African American writer who lived in Lawrence ages 1 to 12 (1903-1916). Professor Pettway is an Assistant Professor of Spanish at Bates College where he teaches classes and conducts research in Cuban Cultural Studies, Hispanophone Caribbean Literature and Nineteenth Century Latin American letters. He earned his Ph.D. in Hispanic Cultural Studies at Michigan State University. Professor Pettway’s research can be best described as a literary excavation of Afro-Cuban colonial literature that seeks to gather dispersed fragments of the past in order to define and reconstitute racial and religious subjectivities embedded in the text. His book-length project, Afro-Cuban Literature in the Age of Conspiracy: Race, Religion and Ritual in Juan Francisco Manzano and Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés is an innovative analysis of the politics of race and religion in the poetry, narrative, correspondence and trail records of Juan Francisco Manzano and Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés, the most prolific black literary writers in colonial Cuba. Dr. Pettway argues that black writers used Catholicism as subterfuge to inscribe an Afro-Caribbean religiosity that transculturated Cuban literature and posited a broad project of emancipation.

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