History SLAM! 2010

On Saturday, May 8, Historians Are Writers! (HAW!), an open working-group of students and faculty based in the history department of Cornell University, will host History Slam 2010 from 3-7 PM in McGraw 366.

What, you ask, is a history slam? It’s like a poetry slam (only with history), or a blues jam (only not at a bar). It’s an open format, alternative way to present creative historical work to a sympathetic, supportive audience. It’s the sort of informal gathering for which you can sign up ahead of time, and be scheduled, or you can decide on the spur-of-the-moment to stand up and share your stuff.

We seek readings, showings, and performances of short works that are no more than 10 minutes long and that experiment with the creative possibilities of language and history, broadly conceived. This might mean that you flirt with the boundary between fact and fiction. Or maybe you throw all caution to the wind, jump the dividing line, and whole-heartedly embrace the possibilities of fantasy. Perhaps you will experiment with chronology: why does time need to run in a linear fashion, anyway? Or maybe you experiment with voices, or tenses, or your position as author. What happens if your historical characters are self-aware? Can histories show love or hatred? What about histories of the present, or the future? What role might symbolism or metaphor play in historical prose?  Can one create a minimalist history? Might you experiment with sound, rhythm, rhyme, pace, or texture? What role might images, or music, or smells play in an experimental history? How will you balance showing, telling, and withholding information? Where will you locate the boundary between creator and created, audience and text?

So limber up your fingers, top off the ink in your pen, and get to work exploring creative histories.

If you know that you want to present in History Slam 2010, e-mail your name and the title of your work (no abstract necessary) to either Daegan Miller or Aaron Sachs by April 30th. And although we’d like to get a few committed names on the sign-up sheet, there is no need to sign up ahead of time in order to share your work: bring it to the Slam, and jump up to present when you feel moved by the creative spirit.

And finally, a quick word on how the event will be organized: after our presenters have all read (sung? shown? played?) their works, we’ll have a larger, informal discussion about what we all just witnessed. And because the Cornell History Department has very generously provided funds for HAW!, we’ll make the event a dinner affair.

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