Herkimer County Community College invites literary, legal, historical and film scholars, students, and other interested parties to participate in an interdisciplinary conference entitled “Chester, Grace, and Dreiser: The Birth of An American Tragedy.” The conference, to take place on June 22-24, 2006, marks the centennial anniversary year of the famous 1906 trial of Chester Gillette, the resident of Cortland, NY, who was convicted of and executed for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Grace Brown of South Otselic, NY. The Gillette trial attracted national media attention from the yellow press of the era, and later inspired Theodore Dreiser’s renowned 1925 novel An American Tragedy, which in turn inspired the classic 1951 film A Place in the Sun.
The conference will take place on the campus of Herkimer County Community College in Herkimer, NY, the site of the trial and the village that Dreiser fictionalized as “Bridgeburg.” Herkimer, NY is located approximately midway between the cites of Syracuse and Albany on exit 30 of I-90, the New York State Thruway.
In addition to scholarly panels and presentations devoted to the Gillette-Brown case and its fictional and film adaptations, tentative plans include displays of artifacts and documents relating to the case, a reenactment of the trial by a local theater company, screenings of the films related to Dreiser’s novel, tours of the jail and courthouse where Gillette was held and tried, and an excursion trip to the murder site on Big Moose Lake.
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