Claudia Rankine to Present Signature Lecture on November 12

a woman with short dark hair wearing a colorful scarf and a red shirt

The College of Arts & Letters is pleased to host MacArthur Genius, Guggenheim Fellow, and acclaimed author Claudia Rankine as part of the College’s Signature Lecture Series. This online interactive talk on racism and social justice will take place via Zoom on Thursday, November 12, at 7 p.m. The event is free, but registration is required. To register, please complete the MSU Signature Lecture with Claudia Rankine Webinar Registration form.

Rankine is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University and the author of six collections of poetry, three plays, and various essays. She wrote the 2014 hybrid prose-poetry book, Citizen: An American Lyric, which has been critically accredited for bringing national attention to police violence against Black Americans, racial prejudice, historical trauma, implicit bias, and white supremacy. 

The only poetry book to be a New York Times Bestseller in the nonfiction category, Citizen: An American Lyric received the 2016 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Book Prize for Poetry, 2015 Forward Prize for Poetry, and the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, the first book in the award’s history to be nominated in both poetry and criticism. 

the book cover for Citizen an American Lyric

The critical and popular acclaim earned by Citizen: An American Lyric enabled Rankine to found The Racial Imaginary Institute, an organization “committed to the activation of interdisciplinary work and a democratized exploration of race in our lives.”

All or parts of Citizen: An American Lyric were taught to at least 19 different classes at Michigan State University this past spring and copies were circulated in the community. Rankine’s book also was the inspiration for the Who Is a Citizen? contest sponsored by the Creative Writing and Film Studies programs within MSU’s Department of English. This literary and video contest, which was open to all current MSU students, awarded seven $500 prizes and the winning entries are now featured at the MSU Broad Art Lab.

Rankine’s five other collections of poetry include: Just Us: An American Conversation, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, PLOT, The End of the Alphabet, and Nothing in Nature is Private, which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize. Among her numerous other awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, United States Artists, and the National Endowment of the Arts. 

an image of a art exhibit
John Lucas and Claudia Rankine: Situations installation at the MSU Broad Art Museum. (Photo by Eat Pomegranate Photography)

The Rankine Signature Lecture event is being held in collaboration with the John Lucas and Claudia Rankine: Situations exhibition at the MSU Broad Art Museum where, for the first time in a solo exhibition, the entire series of Situations videos collaboratively produced by Rankine and documentary filmmaker John Lucas appear. The videos combine still and moving images from archival, televised, and surveilled sources with voice-overs by Rankine to address both explicit acts of racism and insidious racist aggressions that are built into institutional structures and everyday life. The exhibition is on view through December 26, 2020.

Signature Lecture Series

Originally founded as the Celebrity Lecture Series in 1998 by the College of Arts & Letters and the Dean’s Community Council, the series was later renamed the Signature Lecture Series in 2007 and allows notable public figures to interact and engage with the faculty, students, and greater community of Michigan State University through conversations and discussions.

Support for this series has come from sponsors both within the university community and the community at large. Their generosity has been critical in attracting the best and most qualified individuals to conduct an informed and wide-ranging discussion of contemporary ideas and creative achievements in the arts and humanities.

The popularity of this series has attracted some of the most illustrious scholars, critics, novelists, poets, film producers, and creative artists of our time, including Soledad O’Brien, Ken Burns, Oliver Stone, Richard Ford, and Maya Angelou, just to name a few.