Dr. Ruth Perry of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will enhance the Henrietta Harvey Distinguished Lecture series with some fine ballads this fall.
On Oct. 11, the acclaimed scholar will offer The Finest Ballads: Anna Gordon Brown and 18th-Century Scottish Song Culture. Dr. Perry, who has been known to delight audiences by mixing her lectures with song, always commits the ballads she analyzes to memory, in the spirit of the oral tradition.
“The talk is about the importance of folk music and songs in particular in Scotland,” she said, adding that 18th-century Scotland was a nation of ballad singers. “I try to give reasons for the importance of song in that time and place. I intend to sing a ballad as part of my talk to demonstrate the genre.”
Dr. Perry is currently writing a biography of Anna Gordon Brown, the first known ballad-singer in the British Isles. A former recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships, Dr. Perry was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for 2006-2007 for her research on Mrs. Brown, who influenced Harvard scholar Francis J. Child.
Dr. Perry has taught Literature at MIT since 1972 and served as director of its Women’s Studies Program between 1982 and 1998. A past president of the American Society for 18th-Century Studies, she has published six books and scores of articles. Novel Relations: The Transformation of Kinship in English Literature and Culture 1748-1818, published by Cambridge University Press in 2004, received a full and favourable vetting in The New York Review of Books and inspired veteran actor Donald Sutherland to e-mail his praise to Dr. Perry.
Dr. Perry also has an interest in the musical culture of our province. Her review of Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland, collected and edited by Elisabeth Bristol Greenleaf and recorded by Grace Yarrow Mansfield, was recently reprinted by the Folklore Department for Newfoundland & Labrador Studies. Last spring, Dr. Perry performed a number of songs from this collection in Boston.
Her Henrietta Harvey lecture will be of particular interest to lovers of folk music and folklore, English, history, music and women’s studies, but is open to all. It takes place on Thursday, Oct. 11, at 8 p.m. in the Inco Innovation Centre, IIC-2001.