For Immediate Release — September 11, 2008

David Irwin
Media Relations Manager
(585) 245-5516

SUNY Geneseo Harding Lecture to Feature Literature Scholar Specializing in African-American Family Life, Women’s Studies

FrancesSmithFoster_thumb GENESEO, N.Y.—An Emory University literature scholar will address “Freedom’s Journal and Its Work; Or Facts, Falsehoods and Common Sense” at the fifth annual Walter Harding Lecture Sept. 24 at the State University of New York at Geneseo.

Frances Smith Foster, the Charles Howard Candler professor of English and Women’s Studies and associated faculty in African-American Studies and American Studies, will deliver the lecture at 5 p.m. in Newton Hall Room 214.  A reception will follow in the Harding Lounge in Welles Hall, Room 111.  Both the lecture and reception are open to the public without charge.  The lecture is made possible by the Harding family endowment, the English department and the President's Office.

Foster, who received her doctorate from the University of California at San Diego, specializes in African-American family life, women’s studies and American and African-American literature.  She has authored or edited ten books including “Written By Herself: Literary Production by African-American Women, 1746-1892.” Her rediscovery of three unpublished novels by a freeborn African-American 19th-century writer, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, brought her tremendous acclaim in 1994 when they were published by Beacon Press as “Minnie’s Sacrifice, Sowing and Reaping, Trial and Triumph.”  Co-editor with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. of “The Norton Anthology of African American Literature,” she also edited the Norton edition of “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” She has also authored numerous articles, including “Race, Region and the Politics of Slavery’s Memory,” and “African Americans, Literature, and the Nineteenth Century Afro-Protestant Press.”

Her current research centers on feminist sexual ethics, antebellum African-American families and religion, and best sellers and literary societies.  Her course offerings have ranged from undergraduate seminars such as “Becoming a Woman” and “Slavery and the African-American Literary Imagination” to upper-division courses such as “African-American Prize-Winning and Prize Worthy Literature” and “(W)right Things Right in Nineteenth Century African American Literature.”  She also has taught graduate seminars such as “Family, Marriage and Sexual Morality in Early African America,” “African-American Literary Theories and Practices,” and “Provocations: US American Women Writing.”

SUNY Geneseo launched the annual Harding lecture in 2004 in honor of the late Walter Harding, an internationally famous faculty member who was the world's leading scholar on 19th century author Henry David Thoreau.  Author of more than 25 books and numerous articles on the life and work of Thoreau, Harding's biography on Thoreau is still considered the definitive account of his life and was reprinted by Princeton University Press in 1992.  He was the founding secretary and former president of the Thoreau Society, the oldest and largest international organization devoted to the study of any American author.

Harding, a distinguished professor emeritus of English at SUNY Geneseo, died in 1996 at the age of 78. He joined the faculty at Geneseo in 1956 after teaching at the University of Virginia, Rutgers University and the University of North Carolina.  He received his doctorate from Rutgers in 1950.  He served as chair of SUNY Geneseo's English department for six years and was designated a University Professor in 1966 and a Distinguished Professor in 1973. He retired in 1982 and a year later became the first faculty member in SUNY to be awarded a SUNY Honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

Harding's wife, Marjorie Brook Harding, created an endowment to make the lecture series possible. In addition, Harding's family donated his extensive collection of more than 15,000 books, pamphlets, articles and other Thoreau memorabilia to his beloved Thoreau Society at Walden Woods in Concord, Mass. The collection includes all Thoreau first editions and first printings.  The family generously ensured that SUNY Geneseo's Milne Library was able to make copies of Harding's works. The Walter Harding Collection consists of writings and 19th-century objects associated with Thoreau and transcendentalism.