The UMKC Trustees and School of Humanities and Social Sciences are proud to introduce the Marilyn T. and Byron C. Shutz Lecture Series. This annual series hosts lectures, seminars, and workshops in fields such as creative writing, literature, and art history.

Upcoming Events 

April 25, 2024 4:00-5:30 pm (CDT)

(In-person) Student Union 302

A Literary Life of Sutton E. Griggs: The Man on the Firing Line

This presentation by the author of A Literary Life of Sutton E. Griggs (Oxford University Press 2022) not only brings to light the life and career of the most prolific African American novelist at the turn of the twentieth century but also discusses the work of a Black Topeka, Kansas, and Kansas City artist, Robert E. Bell, who illustrated Griggs’s The Hindered Hand, three versions of which were issued by Griggs’s Nashville-based Orion Publishing Company in 1905 and 1906.  The longest, most complex, and most widely distributed of Griggs’s novels, the book was written at the behest of the National Baptist Convention, the largest and most influential African American organization in the early 1900s (with over two million members), as a response to Thomas Dixon’s race-baiting best seller, The Leopard’s Spots, the inspiration, along with Dixon’s later novel, The Clansman, for the controversial film, The Birth of the Nation.



John Gruesser is Research Scholar, Natural History Collections, at Sam Houston State University in Texas and Emeritus Professor of English at Kean University in New Jersey, where he teaches courses in American and world literature.  Gruesser has been the president of the Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins Society, the New Jersey College English Association, and the Poe Studies Association, which named him an Honorary Lifetime Member in 2020.  He is the author of the award-winning Edgar Allan Poe and His Nineteenth-Century American Counterparts (Bloomsbury 2019) and the editor of the essay collections Animals in the American Classics: How Natural History Inspired Great Fiction (Texas A&M University Press 2022) and Animals in Classic American Poetry: How Natural History Inspired Great Verse (Texas A&M University Press 2025).

UMKC Affiliated

Non-UMKC Affiliated

Portrait of John Gruesser

This Year's Past Events 

February 29, 2024 4:00-5:30 pm (CDT) 

Online (Zoom) 

Digital Humanities Roundtable: Automatically Detecting and Analyzing Literary Allusions and Direct Speech in Ancient Literature

Panelists will discuss their work creating the databases and systems to detect literary allusions and direct speech in Ancient Greek and Roman Literature. Dr. Coffee will discuss the Tesserae Project, which he founded in 2008 as an effort to trace intertextuality and allusion in literary texts using computational means. Dr. Forstall and Dr. Verhelst will discuss the DICES project, an international research collaboration for the study of direct speeches in Greek and Latin epic poetry from Homer to Late Antiquity. The heart of the project is an effort to construct a comprehensive, authoritative database of direct speech in Greek and Latin epic.  In addition to their specific projects, panelists will discuss how their general approaches can be modified and applied to works of literature written in English.

Watch Recorded Panel

Berenice Verhelst is Assistant Professor of Ancient Greek at the University of Amsterdam. Dr. Verhelst was trained (MA 2009, PhD 2014) at the University of Ghent, where she was also active from 2015 to 2021 as a postdoctoral research fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO Vlaanderen).

Her research focuses on the Greco-Roman epic tradition. She particularly specializes in Late Antiquity and more specifically the Greek epics of Nonnus of Panopolis (5th c. AD) and the epyllia and ecphrastic poems of the so-called Nonnian poets. She works with the methods and terminology of narratology, genre studies, and ancient rhetoric. As one of the coordinators of the DICES project ( she is particularly interested in combining narratology and digital methods and quantifying the striking differences regarding style and structure of Late Antique (secular and Christian) versus Archaic and Classical epic poetry.

Portrait of Berenice Verhelst

Christopher W. Forstall is an Associate Professor of Classics at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada. By vocation, he is a digital classicist with interests in Ancient Latin and Greek poetry, computational stylometry, cognitive science, and oral-formulaic theory. Dr. Forstall uses Digital Humanities methods to study the ways in which literary texts and their audiences respond to one another through patterns of sound, meter, and vocabulary.

Forstall has a Ph.D. in Classics from the University at Buffalo, where he wrote his dissertation on Homeric poetics. Before coming to Mount Allison he held post-doc positions in Computer Science at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and in Classics at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

Portrait of Christopher W Forstall

Neil Coffee is a Professor in the Department of Classics at The State University of New York at Buffalo. Coffee's interests include Latin epic poetry, Roman social history, ancient philosophy, and digital approaches to literary and intellectual history. Coffee is the author of The Commerce of War: Exchange and Social Order in Latin Epic and Gift and Gain: How Money Transformed Ancient Rome.

Coffee is co-editor of the 2019 “Intertextuality in Flavian Epic Poetry.” His current book project is entitled Serenity and Engagement: An Ancient Search for Balance.

Portrait of Neil Coffee


March 5, 2024 12:00-1:30 pm (CDT)

(In-person) UMKC Gallery of Art

Survival by Sharing

Why look closely at publishing? For artists, writers, poets, designers, activists, and anyone else who wants to spread the word—whatever that word may be—"making public" is a powerful means to mobilize communities and inspire change. Artist and design educator Paul Soulellis experiments with independent publishing as an artistic practice, and shares examples of joyful, radical, political, queer, and movement-based publishing as a means to resist, refuse, and survive. Paul is one of the founding members of Queer.Archive.Work, a queer and trans cooperative print studio in Providence, Rhode Island, as well as Department Head of Graphic Design at Rhode Island School of Design. For more information, visit

Survival by Sharing (Presentation)


Paul Soulellis is an artist and educator based in Providence, RI. His practice includes teaching, writing, and experimental publishing, with a focus on queer methodologies, network culture, and archival justice.

He is the founder of Queer.Archive.Work, a non-profit organization that supports artists, writers, and activists with access to space, tools, and other resources for queer publishing. He is also Department Head and Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Rhode Island School of Design.

Portrait of Paul Soulellis