Reisman to discuss ownership of history with Brown Bag



The notion that history is told by the victors is one that’s been changing, Nancy Reisman said. Other voices now have the opportunity to be heard.

“There’s been a lot more attention to community histories and cultural histories and history in its multitudes,” Reisman said.

There’s a huge range of voices making themselves heard. According to Reisman, this can be seen in works by and about Chinese-American immigrants and in the reclaiming of African-American history, among others.

“It’s become something very different from American history as I learned it in high school,” she said.

Reisman is the author of two novels, the most recent of which is this year’s Trompe l’Oeil. She is also the prose writer-in-residence for Week Six at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center, and her Brown Bag, “Who Owns this Story? (And is There Room for Me?)” will explore the question of ownership in art and history. Her lecture is at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Reisman is interested to explore the ways in which people tell their stories and “what the dynamics are between the authority of the text and the reader.”

“I would say that all art forms, including literature, have a very subjective vision and have their own values that are very much part and parcel in the work,” she said. “But some kinds of works are more transparent than others about the values that they have. So I’m interested in how we can take that apart a little bit.”

Reisman hopes to talk about different approaches to works, such as examining narration, and what it can offer for both the reader and the writer.

“I believe that the kinds of stories that we tell and the ways in which we tell stories are very important to how we think about ourselves in the world,” Reisman said. “I would even say that extends to notions of democracy. That might be too much of a stretch for some, but I believe that’s what’s possible. It’s also linked to what we think about our own stories.”

It’s this connection to democracy and the real world that Reisman said fascinates her. Self-awareness and critical reading can be formative and transformative, something she hopes her audience takes with them after her lecture.

“Most of all, I hope people will be thinking about just taking another look at the forms and the narration and the ways in which they read and what their own interaction is with literature,” Reisman said.