Finzi-Contini Lectures

The Finzi-Contini lectureship was endowed in 1990 by the Honorable Guido Calabresi, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and former Dean of the Yale Law School, and Dr. Paul Calabresi, in memory of their mother, Bianca Maria Finzi-Contini Calabresi. 

A scholar of European literature and a native of Ferrara, Bianca Maria Finzi-Contini fled fascism in Italy, along with her husband, Dr. Massimo Calabresi, and settled in New Haven, Connecticut. She earned a PhD in French at Yale, with a dissertation on Ernest Renan. She became Professor of French and Italian at Connecticut College, then was for many years Professor and Chair of the Department of Italian at Albertus Magnus College. She died in 1982, at the age of 80.

The lectureship sponsors a distinguished speaker in the field of comparative literature, broadly defined.         

Windham-Campbell Prize winner Namwali Serpell will deliver the fall 2021 Finzi-Contini Lecture “Race Off: The Fantasy of Race Transformation.”

Namwali Serpell, Race Off: The Fantasy of Race Transformation
Thursday, September 23, 2021 5:00pm

Namwali Serpell is the author of The Old Drift, which won the Windham-Campbell Prize in Fiction, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Fiction, the L.A. Times’s Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction, and was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2019 by the New York Times. Serpell’s essay collection, Stranger Faces (2020), was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Born in Lusaka, Zambia, Serpell received her BA at Yale and her PhD at Harvard. She is currently Professor of English at Harvard.

“Race Off” tracks the persistent fantasy of race transformation—specifically, of “switching” from black to white or vice versa—in American fiction, journalism, and film from the nineteenth century to the present. Serpell will discuss the aesthetic, affective, and political implications of this fantasy; its resonance with and distinction from “passing” narratives; and how it tends toward different underlying ideas and tones depending on whether the author is black or white.

Serpell’s talk will be followed by a discussion and Q&A with Tina Post. Tina Post is an Assistant Professor of English and Theater and Performance at the University of Chicago, where she is also affiliated with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. Her first book project, Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression, is under contract with NYU Press.

The event is cosponsored by The Yale Review.
Registration link

5:00–6:30 pm ET, Zoom