RESCHEDULED: ‘Shadow Imagery in Cold War American Culture’ Lecture now on Feb. 20

Dr. Erik Mortenson

Dr. Erik Mortenson

The MCC Lecture Series featuring Dr. Erik Mortenson discussing “Shadow Imagery in Cold War American Culture,” which was postponed by severe weather on Jan. 31, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 3:30 p.m. in Stevenson Center Room 1100.

The talk by Mortenson, who is literary scholar, writer, translator, and writing center consultant at Lake Michigan College, is free and open to the public.

The image of the shadow in mid-20th century America appeared across a variety of genres and media including poetry, pulp fiction, photography, and film. Drawing on an extensive framework that ranges from Cold War cultural histories to theorizations of psychoanalysis and the Gothic, Mortenson argues that shadow imagery in 1950s and 1960s American culture not only reflected the anxiety and ambiguity of the times but also offered an imaginative space for artists to challenge the binary rhetoric associated with the Cold War.

“Dr. Mortenson’s interdisciplinary talk should be of great interest to people studying and interested in English, history, film studies, political science, communications, and even philosophy,” said Andy Wible, MCC philosophy instructor and director of the MCC Lecture Series.

Mortenson’s scholarly work focuses on American literary and visual texts and their intersection with the cultural concerns of the 20th century. He has published numerous journal articles and book chapters, as well as three books.

His first book, Capturing the Beat Moment: Cultural Politics and the Poetics of Presence (Southern Illinois UP, 2011), examines “the moment” as one of the primary motifs of Beat writing, and won a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title award.

Mortenson’s second book, Ambiguous Borderlands: Shadow Imagery in Cold War American Culture (Southern Illinois UP, 2016), investigates the role shadows play in Cold War literary and popular texts, looking specifically at Beat poetry, postwar photography, film noir, and Twilight Zone episodes to explain why shadow imagery had such a hold on American imaginations at mid-century.

His most recent work, Translating the Counterculture:  The Reception of the Beats in Turkey (Southern Illinois UP, 2018), explores how the Beats have been received in Turkey as “underground literature” and what happens when transgressive texts cross national, political, religious, and cultural borders.

In addition to his scholarly work, Mortenson is engaged in numerous creative projects and collaborations.  He has just finished a memoir of his time in bohemian Detroit, and currently writes obituaries for the company Beloved.  He is also an avid translator whose work has appeared in journals such as Asymptote, Talisman, and Two Lines.

After earning a Ph.D. from Wayne State University in Detroit, Mortenson spent a year as a Fulbright Lecturer in Germany before journeying to Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey to help found the English and Comparative Literature Department. After spending more than a decade abroad, he returned to the U.S. shortly after the 2016 coup.

In his spare time, Mortenson enjoys playing racquet sports, swimming in Lake Michigan, gardening organically and cooking for his friends and family.

For more information on the MCC Lecture Series, contact Andy Wible or