Celebrating 20 Years of the David R. Kessler Lecture: The Kessler Conversations Series

One of CLAGS’s first and most lasting contributions to the world of LGBT Studies was to establish the David R. Kessler Lecture. Generously underwritten by Dr. Kessler, the annual lecture has functioned as an award to scholars, artists, and activists who have made field-changing contributions to Queer Studies. Indeed, the roster of Kessler awardees is a kind of who’s who of LGBT intellectual and creative life: the work of just a partial list could populate a fairly comprehensive introduction to the field.
This academic year is CLAGS’s 20th anniversary, and it’s the 20th anniversary of the Kessler Lecture as well. Rather than try to identify a single lecturer to embody the unparalleled legacy of the Kessler, CLAGS is organizing a series of what we’re calling “Kessler Conversations.” Spread over the whole year, these events will bring together past Kessler awardees in conversations with each other and with emerging researchers and practitioners in Queer Studies to evaluate where we’ve been and where we’re going.
While the schedule is still in formation as CLAGS News goes to press, we already have a number of can’t-miss events in place. A high point of the series will be on October 25, featuring Esther Newton, Gayle Rubin, and Carole Vance. Also in the series, Edmund White will be in conversation with award-winning novelist Rakesh Satyal about the changing face of gay fiction; Nathan Lee will moderate a conversation between Douglas Crimp and Sarah Schulman on art, AIDS activism, and downtown queer communities; and Samuel Delany will meditate on his fifty years as a novelist, theorist, and queer icon. The series will also feature memorial events to honor two pioneers we have lost, including Monique Wittig, by presenting contemporary artists and scholars who are continuing in their spirit.
Like the Kessler Lectures themselves, the Kessler Conversations are not just retrospective or reflections on the state of the field. Rather, they will also explore where Queer Studies is going, and perhaps even introduce their audience to Kessler awardees of the next twenty years.