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Thursday, February 14, 2013 BGSU
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'Romance of Race' reveals rich cultural history

A new book by Dr. Jolie Sheffer is further confirmation that one should never doubt the power of the pen. "The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1890-1930," published in January by Rutgers University Press, explains the role of minority women writers and reformers in the creation of modern American multiculturalism.

Like their male counterparts Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo in Europe, these authors provided their largely middle-class, female readers an intimate and sympathetic look at people with whose lives they were otherwise unfamiliar. Through stories of romances between white men and minority women told in human terms, authors such as María Cristina Mena, Mourning Dove, Onoto Watanna and Pauline Hopkins created a vision of the United States as a mixed-race, even incestuous nation, says Sheffer, English and American culture studies.

It's well known that the abolitionist movement gained hugely in support thanks to Harriet Beecher Stowe's portrayal of the horrors of slavery in "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Readers of African-American anti-slavery novels also became aware of the consequences of people being treated and sold as property and the possibility of unintentional incest that could result. At the turn of the century, some women writers adapted those plots to talk about the nation's changing demographics, Sheffer said.

The formation of national identity underwent a revolution between 1880 and 1930 with the huge wave of immigration that took place, the expansion of legislated racial segregation and the United States' increasing imperialism and consequent dehumanization of nonwhite races. Counter to that, the books by minority women writers (and some sympathetic white reformers) celebrated the "melting pot" of American life, where people of different races and backgrounds fell in love, married, had children - a view that reframed political debates in more intimate terms and represented the nation as a diverse family, according to Sheffer.

"Although they are largely forgotten today, except for a few like Mourning Dove, these ethnic women writers were hugely popular in their day," Sheffer said. "Their books were best-sellers, but as melodramas, romances and Gothic tales they didn't fit into the literary canon as precursors to modernism the way that books by people like Henry James and Edith Wharton did. I wanted to see if there was something in those books that might have been radical in the past and that might still be of value today."

The topic was a natural for Sheffer not only because of her interest in literature and American culture studies but from a personal viewpoint as well, she says. Her grandparents embodied the unlikely union of immigrants from disparate backgrounds - one from Germany and another an Eastern European Jew. "Only in America," she said.

in the news

Peace Corps degrees expanded at BGSU
- Sentinel-Tribune

Alumna donates $182,000 for men's golf scholarship
- Sentinel-Tribune, WTVG

Single baby boomers love dating and their freedom
- The Huffington Post

Preview Falcon Health Center at reception

The University community is invited to a reception this afternoon (Feb. 14) in celebration of the groundbreaking for the Falcon Health Center, a new University health center that will be operated by Wood County Hospital and replace the present Student Health Services building on campus.

The gathering will be held from 3:30-5 p.m. in McFall Center Gallery. Renderings of the planned new facility, at the corner of East Wooster Street and South College Drive, will be on display, along with information.

BGSU welcomes guests to Presidents' Day open house

More than 1,000 students - 3,000 people in all - have registered to attend the 17th annual Presidents' Day open house Monday, Feb. 18. The biggest campus visit day of the year, the event offers prospective and admitted students a chance to see the University in action on a day when high schools are closed but BGSU classes are in session.

The open house is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. across campus.

"By talking to students one-on-one, we give them valuable financial aid information they will need in the future," said senior Marissa Benschoter, a student employee in Student Financial Aid. "We really want to see them succeed here at BGSU, and want to help in any way possible. Presidents' Day open house is just the start of the support Financial Aid and the rest of BGSU has to offer."

In the ballroom, visitors can see presentations on everything from the Freshman Wilderness Experience to special programs for students interested in math and science, leadership or multicultural activities and chat with faculty, staff and BGSU students.

Academic departments will offer open-house activities in their respective buildings, and special sessions will be offered on financial aid, choosing a major, first-year programs, the University Honors Program and residence life.

"Presidents' Day is an outstanding opportunity for BGSU to shine, as our primary audience will be high school seniors and transfer students who have already been offered admission for fall 2013 and are here to finalize their college selection," said Gary Swegan, assistant vice president for enrollment management and director of admissions.

In Brief

Learn about how Ohio Department of Education initiatives relate to higher education from a top official, and sign up for survival training. It's all In Brief.

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February 14, 2013