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Lecture

Humanities Scholar Presentation_Heather Nathans.docx

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Department
English
Course
ENGL 1010
Professor
Kyoung-yim Kim
Semester
Fall

Description
Audra Hampsch First Year Writing Prof. Kim 30 October 2013 As I sat waiting for the presentation to begin, my view was directed towards the side of the room as a young man struggled to assemble a video camera. The legs of the tripod fumbled under the weight of the device, cords tangled themselves in a web surrounding the structure, and the man precariously aimed the recorder towards the podium. But a video camera is more than just a cumbersome device used for filming. Rather, it’s a lens, providing a view—usually a different one—for our own human eyes. Then I thought, what a fitting metaphor for this seminar’s topic: “Seeing Ourselves Through Others’Eyes.”Acamera has the ability to capture a moment in a different perspective. Apicture not only elicits minute details that our eyes may have failed to notice in the few seconds of a scene’s portrayal, but also provokes the memories that surrounded it. Likewise, in her lecture, Heather Nathans incorporates figurative “snapshots” of our country’s social and political history to both highlight and reminisce events of misrepresented ethnicities. In claiming that stereotypes are never static, she poses this central question: how are ethnicities of the nineteenth century wrongly portrayed onAmerican stages? Beginning with the image of the Jewess, Nathans highlights how this negative depiction hadn’t changed throughout the eighteen hundreds. In 1820, a Jewess was portrayed in theatre as dirty and poor. Seventy-five years later, however, the image was virtually unchanged, despite multiple social and economic improvements in their reputation. Jews retained a negative and demeaning image for a great period inAmerican film. Next, Nathans recognizes the Native American image on stage. There were two distinct categories: “Indians” of the 1830s who wanted to assimilate to white culture—as shown by plays such as Po-Ca-Hon-Tas—and “Indians” of the 1880s whose role on stage was purely satirical. The Irish, too, were portrayed as comical or weak due to the current politics at the time, specifically the Know-Nothing party, which disliked Catholics and immigrants. Not only did the Kn
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