Readers, rejoice! The Kelly Writers House will again offer a slew of alumni book groups this academic year, incorporating a wide range of writers and genres. The first group — Memories, Stories, Histories: N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain and contemporary Native American Literatures — begins Oct. 1. Here is a detailed look at it and the other 2012-13 alumni book groups:
Texts: First published in 1969, the main text for this group, The Way to Rainy Mountain, is part poetry, part memoir, part autobiography and part historical narrative. It’s also a central text in the so-called “Native American Renaissance.” This book group will follow N. Scott Momaday’s literary and personal journey and also read short stories, poems, and essays by other contemporary Native American authors including Leslie Marmon Silko and Louise Erdrich.
Leader: John Pollack, library specialist for public services in Penn’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. His scholarly work focuses on early America, and he has published on authors including Benjamin Franklin and Samuel de Champlain.
Texts: No preparation is necessary for this month-long examination of the man numerous critics have deemed the greatest living American poet. Copies of poems will be sent to participants via email, though some may wish to buy a copy of Ashbery’s selected or collected poems. (Also, don’t forget that John Ashbery will be a Kelly Writers House Fellow in 2013.)
Leader: Al Filreis, Kelly Professor and Faculty Director of the Writers House, who has led many online book groups and has taught several all-online semester-long courses. He has won numerous teaching awards and was named the Pennsylvania Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation. He has published four books including, most recently, Counter-Revolution of the Word: The Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry.
Texts: Participants will examine two popular films by Woody Allen, a pioneer of the American personal film. Following in Allen’s footsteps, the group will focus on two of our nation’s preoccupations — work and sex — and discuss how these compel us to consider the meaning of love, life and art in Allen’s films.
Leader: Valerie Ross, Director of Critical Writing in the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing. Ross also teaches courses on American film in Penn’s Cinema Studies Program.
Texts: Through the work of Vladimir Nabokov and others, this group will explore the complex intersections of language and experience. It will focus on Nabokov’s short novel Transparent Things, which weaves, unravels and ultimately reweaves a tangled web of language, history and memory. Other readings will include excerpts from Lakoff and Johnson’s classic study Metaphors We Live By and Paul de Man’s influential essay “The Epistemology of Metaphor.”
Leader: Eric Jarosinski, an assistant professor of German at Penn. His research and teaching focus primarily on 20th-century literature, culture and theory, and he is currently completing a book project, Cellophane Modernity, which examines metaphors of “transparency” in modern German architecture, literature and critical theory. The recipient of the School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by an Assistant Professor (2012), he regularly teaches courses on Marx, Nietzsche, and Kafka.
Texts: This group will examine how two Stephen King novellas — The Body and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption — became the films Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption. Starting with the novellas, points of discussion will include how structure and characters are utilized to keep the reader engaged; how these story elements are transformed to serve the screenplay form; how elements of the screenplay change again once the movie is shot and edited; and how structure and character can apply to more than screenplays.
Leader: Rolf Potts, the 2011-12 ArtsEdge Writer-in-Residence at Penn. He has also taught nonfiction and screenwriting at the Paris American Academy creative writing workshop since 2005. His essays and reportage have appeared in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, National Geographic Traveler, Salon, Slate, the New York Times Magazine, National Public Radio and the Travel Channel. He is the author of two books, Vagabonding and Marco Polo Didn’t Go There, and his essays have been anthologized in more than 20 writing collections, including Best American Travel Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction.
Texts: Participants will read both the 1970s Carver story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” and Nathan Englander’s recent “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.” Discussion will focus on the way Englander feeds from — and maybe even surpasses — Carver’s story, creating his own world and work of art in the process. Like the original work, Englander’s centers on two couples and addresses questions about Jewish identity and the Holocaust.
Leaders: Al Filreis, Kelly Professor and faculty director of the Writers House, and David Roberts W’83 — a member of the Kelly Writers House Advisory Board and denizen of the alumni book groups who works in Manhattan in the investment business.
Texts: Using The Wall‘s lyrics as source texts, this group will examine the ways in which Pink Floyd’s iconic album/rock opera still holds significance for listeners today. Indeed, the work includes a number of modern themes — the dangers of ideology as a corrupting force, the terror of a solitary life, and the power of outside events in determining our personal perceptions — and raises questions that are still compelling more than three decades after its conception.
Leader: Patrick Bredehoft, director of the Penn Alumni Interview Program in the Office of Alumni Relations. Before coming to Penn, Patrick was an IB English teacher and college counselor at a small boarding school located outside Istanbul, Turkey, where he also served as the head of foreign languages. From 2010-2012, he worked for Penn’s Undergraduate Admissions Office, where he served as the liaison between the UGAO and the Kelly Writers House. Patrick holds a BA in Literature & Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and a Masters of Arts in Education from Lesley University.