Slave Revolt on Screen

May 26, 2021

The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) was a momentous occasion in world history, the first successful revolution by enslaved Africans in the Americas. But the Revolution's memory was long suppressed in the US and Europe, prompted by fears among slaveholders that it would inspire copycat uprisings by enslaved people elsewhere, fighting for their own freedom. The Revolution's memory has been kept alive, however, in some kinds of popular culture. This talk introduced the Revolution and discussed some of the ways in which it has been depicted in global cinema and in video games. It asked: How have foreign and Haitian portrayals of the Revolution compared? And which have tended to be more accurate: cinematic portrayals of the Haitian Revolution or those in video games?

Showdown on the Pixel Frontier

April 28, 2021

Drawing on his new book Gamer Nation: Video Games and American Culture (Johns Hopkins University Press 2019), John Wills' talk offered insight into the simulation of "America" in modern video games. In particular, the talk explored how the nineteenth-century American West became a popular gameworld for the video game industry, and how early "Wild West"-themed titles in the 1970s not only taught players about the historic frontier, but also how to play a new interactive entertainment media. The talk, accordingly, discussed issues of storytelling, stereotyping, and myth-making in the Western video game genre.

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