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Friends of the Humanities featured UL English Professor Mary Ann Wilson as keynote speaker at the 2016 Spring Luncheon

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Wilson’s talk was entitled Harper Lee’s Two Souths: To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman.

For more than half a century, To Kill a Mockingbird stood apart as an American literary masterpiece and a perennial best seller, provoking countless classroom discussions about racial and social injustice. The book brought fame to its enigmatic author, Harper Lee, and put her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, on the American literary and cultural map. Then, in 2015, the book Harper Lee actually wrote first—Go Set a Watchman—appeared to acclaim, outrage, and skepticism—not only regarding the circumstances of its publication, but also its content. In Watchman, Atticus Finch is no longer the fiery, principled attorney defending an innocent black man, but an aging conservative preaching an accommodationist racist gospel.

The talk considered the publication narrative of the recent book, as well as the different racial and cultural moments—the two Souths—that form the setting of each novel: the 1930s in To Kill a Mockingbird, and the fledgling Civil Rights 1950s in Go Set a Watchman.