Marlborough Literature Festival 2018 Events
27 – 30 September
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Sarah Churchwell – Behold, America
September 29, 2018 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm£10.00
“I am for America, first, last and all the time, and I don’t want any foreign element telling us what to do.” So said a leader of the Ku Klux Klan in a Fourth of July speech in 1919.
Nearly 100 years later, Donald Trump repeatedly used ‘America first’ in his presidential campaign, and it
is this phrase that is one of the two “protagonists” of Behold, America, Sarah Churchwell’s thought- provoking history of attitudes and ideas in the US between 1900 and 1940.
In an article for The Guardian earlier this year, Churchwell wrote: “‘America first’ has a history… entangled with the country’s brutal legacy of slavery and white nationalism, its conflicted relationship to immigration, nativism and xenophobia.” Her suggestion is that, under the current US president, far from resolving itself, that relationship is becoming ever more conflicted.
The other is a similarly misrepresented phrase, the ‘American dream’. Commonly thought to refer to the “individual capitalist striving in a free-market world”, Churchwell traces its origins as an expression rooted in national ideals of equality and justice.
Churchwell is Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding at the University of London, as well as a journalist, broadcaster, Booker Prize judge and author of works on Marilyn Monroe and F. Scott Fitzgerald.