The Syracuse University Library and Renée Crown University Honors Program are presenting Invasion! The Culture of Fear in America, a student-curated exhibition of books, manuscripts and art from the Special Collections Research Center. A gallery reception will be held on Tuesday, April 29, at 5 p.m. on the sixth floor of E.S. Bird Library. The exhibition runs through Sept. 5. It is free and open to the public.
During the Spring 2008 semester, students from the Renée Crown University Honors Program taking the course American Fear, taught by Sean Quimby, director of the Special Collections Research Center, explored the history of fear in American life by immersing themselves in the Library’s primary resource collections.
The students worked diligently to produce an exhibition that accurately illustrates the concept of fear in the United States. They felt that the theme of “invasion” underlies many of our historical anxieties relating to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and a host of other issues. The idea that different people, aliens or even epidemics, like the AIDS virus during the 1980s, might infiltrate society and bring about sweeping change has been cause for extreme fear in the American experience. Fundamentally, the exhibition raises questions of identity, and the class hopes that visitors will “understand their differences and be less discriminating in their actions.”
Among the exhibited works that illuminate the roots of our culture of fear are a 1651 edition of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, Cotton Mather’s 1693 account of the Salem Witch trials, the literature of the Red Scare, a variety of pulp science fiction magazines and Werner Pfeiffer’s sculptural tribute to the victims of 9/11, Out of the Sky.