Duke Prof to Discuess 'The Empty City in Popular Culture' at MCLA


NORTH ADAMS, MA - Marianna Torgovnick, an English professor at Duke University, will discuss a widespread theme in films, television and popular culture at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). She will present "The Empty City in Popular Culture" on Thursday, Oct. 28, at 4 p.m. in Murdock Hall room 218.

The public is invited to attend this free event, sponsored by the MCLA Honors Program.

From "King Kong" to "I am Legend" to "Wall-E" and beyond, American films have featured the destruction of American cities, and especially New York City. Torgovnick will explore this prominent, yet-little discussed theme, examining people's interest in their own destruction and the fascination with an empty city - from which people have disappeared but the buildings and infrastructure remain intact, according to MCLA English Professor David Langston. 

Totgovnick also will address solution to the mysteries this motif poses: Why was this theme especially strong in the 1950s? Why has it returned to prominence in the 21st century? The answers include some possibilities that bear on themes running through this fall's political campaigns, Langston said. 

At Duke, Torgovnick teaches courses in the modern novel, post-colonialism and contemporary culture.  Formerly the chairperson of her department, she serves as the director of the Duke program on arts and media in New York. She has written extensively on 20th century life and culture and published important books on contemporary thought, including "Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives" on the roots of modernism in a theory of primitivism.  

For her memoir, "Crossing Ocean Parkway," she won the American Book Award, and her recent studies,  "The War Complex: World War II in Our Time" and "Primitive Passions: Men, Women, and the Quest for Ecstasy" have received critical acclaim, Langston said.  

For more information of Torgovnick's work, go to