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Dr. Anne MacMaster Receives Mississippi Humanities Council Award

by Web on October 20, 2015

Dr. Anne MacMaster, associate professor of English, is the Millsaps College 2015 recipient of a Humanities Teacher Award given by the Mississippi Humanities Council.The Humanities Teacher Awards program honors outstanding humanities professors at each of the state's institutions of higher learning.

As part of her honor, MacMaster will give a public lecture entitled, “William Faulkner, Jean Toomer, and The Double Dealer: Evidence of an Artistic Encounter?” on Oct. 21 at 4:15 p.m. in the Gertrude C. Ford Academic Complex, room  215. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The lecture will explore the potential awareness by Faulkner of Black writers through the literary magazine The Double Dealer in the 1920’s, nearly two decades before Faulkner’s biographers indicate any inkling of African-American writers.

“Until Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison published their novels in the forties and fifties, the most complex and compelling Black characters in American fiction were created by the white Mississippian William Faulkner,” MacMaster said. “Because of this, and because Faulkner in his fictions of the twenties and thirties exposed American racial oppression more courageously than any other white American author, the question of the point when Faulkner became aware of the work of Black writers is significant. Biographers find no evidence that Faulkner had any inkling of African-American writers until Wright’s Native Son was published by Book-of-the-Month Club in 1940.

“But when we scan the pages of The Double Dealer, a literary magazine published in New Orleans between 1921 and 1926, we not only find evidence that Faulkner was aware of the work of Jean Toomer, author of Cane, one of the preeminent publications of the Harlem Renaissance, but we also uncover a whole matrix of connections among Faulkner, Toomer, and their literary circles. These connections between Faulkner and Toomer through The Double Dealer form part of a wider network of changes in the institutions of American literature.”

MacMaster joined the Millsaps faculty in 1991 after completing graduate work at the University of Virginia. At Millsaps, MacMaster offers courses in English and American literature as well as interdisciplinary studies of literature in the contexts of fine art, history and music. Her teaching interests include modernist fiction, drama and poetry, as well as the art of adaptation--turning fiction into film. She has published scholarly work on authors such as Woolf, Wharton, James, Keats and Milton.

In the classroom, MacMaster is known as an enthusiastic and inspiring teacher who seeks to elicit from her students “the urgency and excitement” that infuses her own love of learning. “Something has to be at stake for them, something important, in order for the best kind of learning to occur,” she once observed. 

Outside of the classroom, MacMaster is a devoted advisor to students and a mentor to colleagues. Her history of service includes multiple terms on the Writing Council, acting as interim chair of the English department, chairing the Theatre Department, and directing both the Women’s Studies and the American Studies programs.