Penn historian and early American expert Daniel K. Richter joins novelists William Vollman and James Welch in a discussion of their recent works.
In Argall, the third volume in Seven Dreams: A Book of North American Landscapes, Vollman examines the collisions between Native Americans and European colonizers. Booklist calls Vollman's interpretations of the machinations and violence between the invading Europeans and the native people "richly imagined," and his portraits of the bumbling Captain John Smith, betrayed and tragic Pocahontas, and her real father, the powerful and ruthless leader Powhatan, "intimate, fresh, ribald, and sympathetic." Vollman casts Argall, the man who kidnapped Pocahontas and committed atrocities of the worst magnitude, as an embodiment of pure evil. "Vollmann's commanding yet nimble, ironic yet deeply felt approach to the continent's complex history is the work of genius," says Booklist.
In The Heartsong of Charging Elk, Welch explores the culture shock of an Oglala Sioux abandoned in France by Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. In this poignant novel of cultural crossing, Charging Elk journeys from the Black Hills of South Dakota to the back streets of 19th-century France, where he is left behind while the show travels on. As the years pass, and events conspire against him, he is haunted by sad dreams of his family and homeland. His memories of the Black Hills--of life before his America was lost--generate some of the novel's most powerful prose. Among Welch's other work is the award-winning book, Fool's Crow.
Richter is director of Penn's McNeil Center for Early American Studies
The Penn Humanities Forum is very pleased to collaborate with The Free Library of Philadelphia in this event as part of the library's Philadelphia Lectures at the Free Library series