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Called “the Dirty Harry of literary criticism” by The Village Voice, Frank Lentricchia, Katherine Everett Gilbert Professor of Literature at Duke University, will speak on “Groundzeroland — On Transgressive Art, Terror, and American Consumer Culture” 8 p.m. today in the Kirby Hall of Civil Rights auditorium.

Free and open to the public, the event is Lafayette's sixth annual Conarroe Lecture. The Conarroe Lecture and Faculty Seminar was funded by a bequest to the English department from Lewis Haupt Conarroe '29, an advertising writer and novelist. Each fall, the English department invites a distinguished scholar and teacher to deliver an evening lecture to a general audience and then to lead a seminar the next day for department faculty.

“Groundzeroland” is an essay by Lentricchia and Jody McAuliffe, associate professor of the practice of theater studies and associate professor of the practice of Slavic languages and literatures at Duke, in the edited collection Dissent from the Homeland: Essays after September 11, recently published as a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly.

“This article is a hard-hitting look at reactions to 9/11 by certain performance artists and at the way American consumer culture is turning ‘Ground Zero' in New York City into a tourist destination,” says Laura Dassow Walls, associate professor of English. “It is a serious and demanding essay, and if the lecture is anything like the essay, it might well spark some controversy.”

The essay “Groundzeroland” explores the comments of avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who provoked a furious reaction by declaring, on Sept. 16, that the attack on the World Trade Center was “the greatest work of art possible in the whole cosmos.”

Lentricchia co-edited Dissent from the Homeland: Essays after September 11 with Duke University theologian Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, who will speak on capital punishment 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, in Lafayette's Oechsle Hall auditorium.

Former editor of South Atlantic Quarterly, Lentricchia is one of the best-known living literary theorists. His groundbreaking books, including After the New Criticism and Ariel and the Police, have become classics, and his volume Critical Terms for Literary Study, now in a second edition, is the standard reference in the field. More recently, Professor Lentricchia has moved from literary critic to literary author, publishing the memoir The Edge of Night as well as several novels, including The Knifemen, The Music of the Inferno, and Lucchesi and the Whale.

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