English Department Hosts Ropes Lecture Series

Five prominent scholars are visiting the University of Cincinnati winter quarter as part of the annual Ropes Lecture Series hosted by the

Department of English and Comparative Literature

. The series, called “The Novel and City,” will focus on the American city since 1900.

“We’re reading novels, yes, but also trying to touch on a variety of interdisciplinary contexts: history, architecture, sociology, urban planning and theory,” says Associate Professor Michael Griffith. “Already our first lecturer, Carlo Rotella, has linked up our subject to pulp noir novels, 1970s and 1980s film, 'The Wire,' and boxing history, among other things.”

The popular series is named for Cincinnati industrialist Nathaniel Ropes and funded through Ropes' endowment to UC. Each year, the series focuses on a central theme, inviting prominent writers and scholars for public lectures, panel discussions, and participation in classes on the master's and PhD levels.

Griffith adds, “The Ropes is sometimes described as a graduate seminar with a special effects budget, and it plays a unique role in our curriculum. The series allows us to bring in illustrious scholars and novelists who can contribute to the specific business of the seminar and interact with graduate students—but who also give public lectures that will be lively, sharp and accessible to people beyond our field and, we hope, even beyond the university. It’s a chance, we hope, to build some cross-disciplinary bridges.”

The Ropes Lecture Series schedule is below. All events are free and open to the public and will take place on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. in Room 427 of the Engineering Research Center (the Michael Graves building).


“The Rust Belt Canon”

Jan. 4

Carlo Rotella, Boston College

A Guggenheim Fellow and frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine and many other periodicals, Rotella has also written three books, among them “October Cities: The Redevelopment of Urban Literature.”

“The Hotel Spirit of the Gilded Age”

Jan. 18

Betsy Klimasmith, University of Massachusetts (Boston)

Professor Klimasmith is the author of “At Home in the City: Urban Domesticity in American Literature and Culture, 1850-1930.”

“A Hazard of New American Fortunes: Coming to Terms with the Modern American City”

Jan. 25

Carl Smith, Northwestern University

Carl Smith is Franklin Bliss Snyder Professor of English and American Studies at Northwestern. His most recent book, “The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City,” won the Lewis Mumford Prize.


“Waiting for the Demolition Men”

Feb. 22

Paul LaFarge, Bard College

Paul La Farge, recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, is the author of three novels, among them “Haussmann: or the Distinction,” which centers on Baron Haussmann and the making of modern Paris.


“Going Up, Falling Down: New Fiction about New York City”

March 1

Tom LeClair, University of Cincinnati

Our former colleague Tom LeClair, a prolific reviewer of fiction and a member of the National Book Award jury in 2005, is the author of many books, among them “In the Loop: Don DeLillo and the Systems Novel” and “The Art of Excess: Mastery in Contemporary American Fiction.”

For more information, contact Michael Griffith at