Chestertown, MD — From Shakespeare to sports to a Pulitzer Prize-winner and a U.S. Poet Laureate, a rich and varied literary line-up graces Washington College's events calendar in 2008-2009.
The College's writing-related traditions run deep; between the annual Sophie Kerr Lecture Series and a full slate of offerings from the Rose O'Neill Literary House, the historic Chestertown campus welcomes a bounteous array of literary events with the advent of the school year.
The Sophie Kerr Lecture Series honors the legacy of the late Sophie Kerr, a writer from Denton, Md., whose generosity has enriched Washington College's literary culture. When she died in 1965, Kerr left the bulk of her estate to Washington College, specifying that one half of the income from her bequest be awarded every year to the senior showing the most "ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor"—the famed Sophie Kerr Prize—and the other half be used to bring visiting writers to campus, to fund scholarships and to help defray the costs of student publications.
The Rose O'Neill Literary House, which underwent an extensive restoration and renovation last spring, is known far and wide as the hub of Washington College's writing community. For nearly 25 years it has served as the venue for co-curricular activities that bring together students and faculty with visiting writers, scholars, editors and other literary artists; theWashington Post dubbed it "the Carnegie Hall of literary readings."
The 2008-2009 Washington College itinerary of literary events will feature:
Historical Lit with Henry Wiencek "'A Paradox to Posterity': Jefferson and Slavery at Monticello"
Casey Academic Center Forum, Monday, September 8, 4:30 p.m.
Henry Wiencek, a leading American historian, is the author of The Hairsons: An American Family in Black and White (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award) and An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, (winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for history). In 2008-2009, Wiencek is the debut Patrick Henry Fellow at Washington College. The Patrick Henry Fellowship, co-sponsored by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the Rose O'Neill Literary House, brings a top historical writer to Chestertown for a year of writing, reflection and engagement with students and faculty. Wiencek will address the topic of his forthcoming book, a study of Jefferson and his slaves.
Wiencek's lecture is the opening event in the Rose O'Neill Literary House's "Literature of the Fact: Masters of Topical Non-Fiction" Series.
Helen Cooper Lecture: "Shakespeare and the Canterbury Tales: The Case ofA Midsummer Night's Dream"
Casey Academic Center Forum, Tuesday, September 9, 4:30 p.m.
Helen Cooper is Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at the University of Cambridge, and fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge. She is the author of numerous works of scholarship including The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare, Pastoral: Mediaeval into Renaissance,and The Structure of the Canterbury Tales. Her Washington College presentation opens this year's Sophie Kerr Lecture Series.
Sports Lit with Stefan Fatsis
Rose O'Neill Literary House, Tuesday, September 16, 7:30 p.m.
The Rose O'Neill Literary House's "Literature of the Fact" series continues with a presentation by one of America's leading writers on the business and culture of sports. A staff writer for theWall Street Journal and a regular commentator to National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," Stefan Fatsis is the author of three books. Wild and Outside: How a Renegade Minor League Revived the Spirit of Baseball in America's Heartland followed a troupe of antiestablishment baseball entrepreneurs. Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players chronicled the obsessive subculture of the iconic board game. And Fatsis's most recent work, A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-foot-8, 170-pound, 43-year-old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL is the Plimptonian story of his summer as a training-camp placekicker for the Denver Broncos.
Fiction Reading with Alexis Stamatis
Casey Academic Center Forum, Wednesday, September 17, 4:30 p.m.
The Sophie Kerr Lecture Series continues with a reading by Alexis Stamatis, author of 14 books: eight novels and novellas as well as six collections of poetry. His work appears in many leading Greek magazines and newspapers. He has worked as Chief Editor for foreign literature for the Metaixmio Publishing House in Greece, and as a journalist, literary critic and architect. American Fugue, from which he will be reading at Washington College, is his first book published in the United States.
The Paris Review and War Lit with Philip Gourevitch
Rose O'Neill Literary House, Thursday, October 2, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m.
The Goldstein Program in Public Affairs joins the Rose O'Neill Literary House in presenting the third offering of the "Literature of the Fact" series—a two-part appearance by celebrated journalist Philip Gourevitch. His searing account of the Rwandan genocide, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families, won the 1998 National Book Critics Circle award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the George K. Polk Award for Foreign Reporting.
A long-time staff writer for The New Yorker, and the editor of The Paris Review, Gourevitch is also the author of Standard Operating Procedure, with Erroll Morris, about the prisoner abuse at Abu Graib in Iraq.
At 4:30 p.m. on Oct 2, Gourevitch will offer an in-depth look at The Paris Review and working in publishing and the literary field (open to members of the Washington College community.) At 7:30 pm, he will give a reading from his works (open to the public).
Poetry Reading with Jehanne Dubrow
Rose O'Neill Literary House, Tuesday, October 7, 4:30 p.m.
The Sophie Kerr Series' October offering features Jehanne Dubrow, a Visiting Professor of English at Washington College. Dubrow's work has appeared in Poetry, The Hudson Review, The New England Review, Shenandoah, Barrow Street and Gulf Coast. She is the author of a chapbook, The Promised Bride (Finishing Line Press). Her full-length collection won the 2007 Three Candles Press First Book Prize and will be published in 2008.
"Navigate Your MFA" and a Poetry Reading by Deborah Landau
Rose O'Neill Literary House, Monday, October 27, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m.
The Rose O'Neill Literary House, the Sophie Kerr Committee and the Office of Career Development come together to present an appearance by award-winning poet Deborah Landau. Her 2004 collection, Orchidelirium, was a National Poetry Series finalist. Director of the Creative Writing Program at NYU, she is a two-time winner of the Los Angeles Poetry in the Windows Contest and was twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
At 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 27, Landau will provide tips and information about choosing and pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree (the event is open to members of the Washington College community). At 7:30 p.m. she will give a poetry reading (open to the public).
Food Lit with Amanda Hesser
Rose O'Neill Literary House, Friday, November 14, 4 p.m.
"Literature of the Fact" explores the art of culinary prose with Amanda Hesser, former food editor of The New York Times. She is the author of the award-winning The Cook and the Gardener, Cooking for Mr. Latte and Eat, Memory. It will be a special afternoon of readings, conversation and freshly made treats from Hesser's recipes.
Rock Lit with Dan Kennedy
Norman James Theatre, Thursday, November 20, 8 p.m.
From writing about food culture to writing about music culture, "Literature of the Fact" next plays host to rising literary star Dan Kennedy. With his pieces in McSweeney's and his memoir Loser Goes First, Kennedy established himself as one of the funniest writers in America. With his follow up, Rock On: A Corporate Office Ballad, he has cemented that reputation and also shown his chops as a first-rate writer on music and the music scene. TheNew York Times called Rock On "a succession of gently mordant vignettes, with hilariously spot-on asides about media image-making, music-biz hierarchies and sensitive singer-songwriters... Neither Kennedy nor the music business will ever be the same."
Annual Freshman Reading
Rose O'Neill Literary House, Tuesday, February 24, 2009, 7 p.m.
Washington College's newest crop of up-and-coming literary talents will present their annual reading, with a reception to follow. The event is co-sponsored by the Department of English, the Writers' Union and the Rose O'Neill Literary House.
Poetry Reading with Thom Ward
Casey Academic Center Forum, Thursday, February 26, 2009, 4:30 p.m.
The Sophie Kerr Series presents poet Thom Ward on February 26. In addition to penning his own verses, Ward is editor for BOA Editions, Ltd., an independent publishing house of American poetry and poetry in translation. Ward's poetry collections include Various Orbitsand Small Boat with Oars of Different Size. His poetry chapbook, Tumblekid, was the winner of the 1998 Devil's Millhopper Poetry Contest.
Poetry Reading with Ted Kooser
Norman James Theatre, Friday, March 27, 2009, 4 p.m.
The jewel in the crown of the Sophie Kerr Series each year is Sophie Kerr Weekend, and the keynote event of Sophie Kerr Weekend 2009 will be a much-anticipated reading by two-time U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser. The highly regarded Nebraskan poet was the first poet from the Great Plains to hold the Laureate position. A professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kooser is the author of 11 full-length collections of poetry, includingDelights and Shadows (Copper Canyon Press, 2004) and Weather Central (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994). His newest book, The Poetry Home Repair Manual, gives beginning poets tips for their writing.
Over the years Kooser's works have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, Poetry, The Hudson Review, The Nation, The American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, and Antioch Review. He has received two NEA fellowships in poetry, the Pushcart Prize, the Stanley Kunitz Prize, The James Boatwright Prize, and a Merit Award from the Nebraska Arts Council. He is the winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for his bookDelights & Shadows.
Lisa Couturier on "Urban Animals Unveiled"
Casey Academic Center Forum, Tuesday, April 14, 2009, 4:30 p.m.
The Center for Environment & Society joins forces with the Sophie Kerr Committee to present a program on environmental journalism during Earth Month. Lisa Couturier is a nature writer who has worked as an environmental journalist and as a magazine editor, during which time she traveled to remote parts of South America, Central America and Southeast Asia. Her work has appeared in the well regarded American Nature Writing series, in National Geographic's Heart of a Nation: Writers and Photographers Inspired by the American Landscape, in the PBS series "Writers Writing," and in other anthologies and magazines. She is the author of The Hopes of Snakes: And Other Tales from the Urban Landscape.
Annual Senior Reading
Rose O'Neill Literary House, Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 7 p.m.
An enduring rite of spring at Washington College is the annual Senior Reading, an occasion to bid farewell to the budding authors of the graduating class while hearing them read from their original pieces. Followers of the Sophie Kerr Prize generally regard the Senior Reading as a key early indicator of who the front-runners for the prize will be. The event is co-sponsored by the Department of English, the Writers' Union and the Rose O'Neill Literary House.
The Rose O'Neill Literary House has three other spring 2009 events to watch for: a Graphic Narrative Festival (featuring comic-book legend Neil Gaiman), a Creative Arts Career Fair and a Songwriting Workshop. More details will be forthcoming.
Throughout the fall and spring, the Rose O'Neill Literary House will host periodic community meetings; for more information on these and all other Literary House events, call 410/778-7899 or visit lithouse.washcoll.edu.
Admission to all Sophie Kerr Lecture Series events is free and open to the public. For more information, call 410/778-7879.
September 3, 2008