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Juniata English Professor Gives Talk on Ex-Slave Autobiographies

(Posted March 7, 2011)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Judy Katz, associate professor of English at Juniata College, will lecture on "Ex-Slave Autobiographers and Their Audiences" at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 16, in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science on the Juniata campus.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The talk is part of the Bookend Seminar series, which features afternoon lectures each month by Juniata faculty.

She will describe how the authors, who were usually writing for an abolitionist audience, created an authorial "voice" and life story that met with the expectations (and prejudices) of the Northern audience.

Katz, who teaches Juniata's courses on African-American literature, will discuss several autobiographies of ex-slaves published before the Civil War. She will describe how the authors, who were usually writing for an abolitionist audience, created an authorial "voice" and life story that met with the expectations (and prejudices) of the Northern audience.

By focusing her talk on two major works, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," by Harriet Jacobs, and "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," by Frederick Douglass, Katz will explain how the authors, particularly Douglass (who wrote several autobiographies) made rhetorical changes to their stories in subsequent writings. If time permits, Katz also will discuss how modern authors, such as Toni Morrison (in "Beloved") approach the neo-slave narrative.

Katz came to Juniata in 1988 and was appointed to the full-time faculty in 1991. She has been instrumental in acting as an advocate at the college for women's programs. She created the college's first "Women in Literature" course, and in 1994 established "Unlock Your Voice," a program of readings from women's literature. This celebrated program, along with "Lift Ev'ry Voice," a program centering on readings from African-American literature, are among the most popular public programs at the college. She was the 2005 recipient of the Beachley Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Katz earned a bachelor's degree in English from the City College of New York (CCNY) in 1966 and earned master's and doctoral degrees in English from Penn State in 1968 and 1972, respectively. Katz began her academic career teaching freshman English at Penn State Altoona from 1971 to 1980.

She was promoted to associate professor in 1997. She teaches such courses as World Literatures, Women in Literature, The Contemporary Novel and College Writing Seminar. She is a member of the Modern Language Association and the National Council of Teachers of English.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.