Event Calendar

The Shadows Took Shape Book Club

Colson Whitehead: The Intuitionist

Feb 23, 2014 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
  • Photo: Paul Sepuya

In honor of the major group exhibition The Shadows Took Shape, please join The Studio Museum for a new series of book club discussions moderated by prominent artists, scholars, and bloggers interested in science fiction and speculative literature. The moderator for Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist is Jeffrey Allen Tucker, Director of the Frederick Douglass Institute for African & African-American Studies at the University of Rochester.

The Intuitionist is set in the curious world of elevator inspection, portrays a universe parallel to our own, where matters of morality, politics, and race reveal unexpected ironies. This novel takes place in a city full of skyscrapers and other buildings requiring vertical transportation in the form of elevators. The time, never identified explicitly, is one when black people are called "colored" and integration is a current topic. The protagonist is Lila Mae Watson, an elevator inspector of the "Intuitionist" school. The Intuitionists practice an inspecting method by which they ride in an elevator and intuit the state of the elevator and its related systems. The competing school, the "Empiricists," insists upon traditional instrument-based verification of the condition of the elevator. Watson is the second black inspector and the first black female inspector in the city.

Jeffrey Allen Tucker is Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Rochester, where he teaches courses on 20th-century American and African-American literature.  He is the author of A Sense of Wonder:  Samuel R. Delany, Race, and Identity (Wesleyan Press, 2004) and co-editor of Race Consciousness:  African-American Studies for the New Century (New York University Press, 1997).  He also has written essays on George S. Schuyler, Octavia E. Butler, and Colson Whitehead.  His most recent publication is “‘A Sort of Double Writing’:  They Fly at Çiron’s Generic Identities” (American Literary History 24.4, 2012), addresses a 1971 short story that was co-composed by Samuel R. Delany and re-published as a novel in 1993.  Tucker is a contributor to the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Slavery in American Literature and is working on a collection of interviews conducted with John A. Williams by himself and others.

Additional scheduled Book Club dates:
November 24: Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979)
December 15: Nalo Hopkinson, Brown Girl in the Ring (1998)

January 26: Samuel R. Delaney, Nova (1968)
March 6: Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

All of the books listed above are available in the Studio Museum bookstore!

To RSVP for the Book Club, please email [email protected].

The Studio Museum in Harlem’s exhibitions are supported with public funds from the following government agencies and elected representatives: The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency; The City of New York; and Council Member Inez E. Dickens, 9th Council District, Speaker Christine Quinn and the New York City Council. Additional funding is provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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