Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Images of Irish-American Immigrants Featured in Swann Fellow’s Talk on May 15

Martha Kennedy of the Library of Congress reports: Images of Irish-American Immigrants Featured in Swann Fellow’s Talk on May 15

Swann Foundation Fellow Sharrona Pearl will discuss depictions of Irish-American immigrants in mid-19th century prints and explore how such imagery conveyed ambiguous perceptions about this group, in a lecture at the Library of Congress on May 15.

Pearl will present the lecture titled "Black and White: Drawing the Irish-American Immigrant in Shades of Grey,” at noon on Tuesday May 15, 2007, in the West Dining Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, DC.

Pearl’s illustrated presentation is based on research conducted at the Library of Congress during her fellowship awarded by the Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon. The Library administers the foundation. The lecture, sponsored by the foundation and the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division, is free and open to the public; no reservations are required.

Irish-Americans at mid-19th century held rights of citizenship and voting and quickly became the most important political force on the east coast. Pearl will discuss the ambiguity of graphic art that pictures members of this immigrant group. Many prints show politicians and others seeking support from the Irish, even as the imagery also suggests that they were racially and religiously different. Pearl will argue that close examination of selected prints from the 1830s through the 1860s demonstrates that Irishness was depicted more noticeably through linguistic and external symbols such as clothing and weaponry, rather than through distinct racial and facial markers. Mindful of links between race and class in the 19th century, Pearl observes that the poor Irish were often depicted as more strongly distinct than were their more wealthy counterparts. Although often compared with African-Americans, Irish-Americans, unlike their compatriots, had social mobility and were not always represented with common identifying features. The Irish, despite many historiographical claims to the contrary, were not black. Rather, Pearl will show that they were often drawn in literal and metaphorical shades of grey.

Pearl completed a Ph.D. in the History of Science at Harvard University in November, 2005. Strongly interdisciplinary, her doctoral research focused on physiognomy in nineteenth century Britain. She is currently working on her book manuscript, which is tentatively titled, “Facing the Victorians: Physiognomy in Nineteenth Century Britain,” under contract with Harvard University Press. Pearl has published articles on a number of related topics, including her new research on science and theater. She is a lecturer on the Committee on Degrees in History and Literature at Harvard University, which is a three year post-doctoral fellowship.

This presentation is part of the Swann Foundation’s continuing activities to support the study, interpretation, preservation and appreciation of original works of humorous and satiric art by graphic artists from around the world. The Swann Foundation’s advisory board is composed of scholars, collectors, cartoonists and Library of Congress staff members. The foundation customarily awards one fellowship annually (with a stipend of $15,000) to assist scholarly research and writing projects in the field of caricature and cartoon. Applications for the academic year 2007-2008 were due on Feb.15, 2007. More information about the fellowship is available through the Swann Foundation’s Web site: www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/swannhome or by e-mailing swann@loc.gov.

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