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Egan-Ryan Selected to Participate in Unique American History Seminar

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From St. Norbert College, June 6, 2014
by Mike Counter,, 920-403-3089

Deirdre Egan-Ryan, associate professor of English and director of American studies at St. Norbert College, is one of a select group of faculty members nationwide chosen by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to participate in a special American history seminar on Chicago. From a pool of 51 faculty members nominated, 28 were selected to participate in a week-long seminar on "The Creation of the Modern American City: Chicago from 1830 to 1910." The seminar will be held June 16--20, 2014, at the Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois. "Strengthening the teaching of American history at colleges and universities is of critical importance. The number of institutions that nominated faculty members who are active as scholars and teachers of this subject is most impressive," said CIC President Richard Ekman. "We believe that Deirdre Egan-Ryan will play a strong role in the seminar."
Egan-Ryan's scholarly work investigates the ways that our relationship to space and place influence our modern and American identities. She is fascinated especially by the ways that women writing during the first few decades of the 20th century found themselves negotiating gendered identities through the shifting cultural spaces of American modernity: urban and rural, private and public.
Her more recent work turns to the flip-side of this modernity to examine what have become known as more "natural" or "rural" spaces. Looking to national parks and the American "frontier" as they are rendered by maps with accompanying text and modernist narrative techniques, Deirdre's more recent projects examine the notion of place as it defines what it is to be American and modern amidst the complex cultural upheavals of the early 20th century.
The seminar will use a chronological and topical approach to explore major developments in Chicago's formative period, when it evolved from a tiny frontier outpost to the nation's second city and emblem of urban modernity, for better and for worse. Discussions will focus on the built environment of Chicago by examining a series of major human-made structures and institutions that both reflected the larger events and ideas that created them and have left a lasting mark on the cityscape. Participants will discuss the coming of the canal, the railroad, and Chicago's rise to become the transportation center of the nation; the stockyards, the packinghouses, and the city's transition from commercial center to industrial colossus; the place of the Great Fire and the skyscraper revolution in the evolution of the cityscape; the social strife and economic conflict revealed in the Haymarket bombing and the Pullman Strike; the hopes of urban reform expressed by Hull House, the World's Columbian Exposition, and the 1909 Plan of Chicago; and the beginnings of the African American community that would later be called the "Black Metropolis."
For more information, visit the CIC website at

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