September 14, 2011
Tall tales, heroes and outright lies: Kansas folklore focus of panel discussion
Kansas has been home to countless remarkable figures -- some of them even real.
A panel discussion from 3-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, at the Manhattan Public Library auditorium, 629 Poyntz Ave., will look at the broader history of tall tales and their larger-than-life figures in the Kansas landscape. The discussion, "150 Years of Tall Tales, Heroes and Outright Lies," is sponsored by the Kansas State University English department and will feature five noted panelists. It is free and open to the public.
"The connection between history and story helps us better understand the past," said Karin Westman, professor and head of the department of English. "Tall tales remind us that all history begins with a story, told for a particular audience and from a particular point of view. The tall tales of Kansas reflect the desires and fears of the people who experienced this land from earlier times into today."
Panel moderator Joe Sutliff Sanders, assistant professor of English, organized the discussion in honor of the 150th anniversary of Kansas statehood.
"This panel will discuss the men and women who strode across the imaginations and histories of the people of Kansas," Sanders said. "Beginning with a treatment of native folklore and the folklore brought by white immigrants, the panel will show the broader history of tall tales and their larger-than-life figures in the Kansas landscape."
* C.W. Sullivan III, Eastern Carolina University distinguished research professor, on native folklore and the folklore brought by white immigrants.
* Cheryl Collins, director and curator of the Riley County Historical Museum, on the history of Manhattan's own hero of "fakelore," Johnny Kaw. Collins will share behind-the-scenes details about the creation of Kaw as a figure to draw in mid-20th-century tourism, including original sketches and an early model of the giant public statue in City Park that now proclaims Kaw's place in local history.
* Gerard Jones, author and lecturer, on the history of American comic books and international significance of Superboy, a fictional resident of a fictional Kansas town.
* Denise Low-Weso, English department faculty at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, on the history of two 19th-century Native American heroes, one of whom went on to help establish a lasting reservation in Montana, and the other of whom led Creek Indians from Confederate Oklahoma to Kansas, helping to prevent the spread of the Civil War in Kansas.
Along with the K-State department of English, the panel is sponsored by the Manhattan Public Library and the Riley County Historical Museum. The program is funded in part by the Kansas Humanities Council, a nonprofit cultural organization encouraging the appreciation of history, heritage and values.