Chestertown, MD – From Betsy Ross to activist poetry, from James Joyce to James McBride, from J.R.R. Tolkien to Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) , a rich and varied literary line-up graces Washington College’s events calendar in 2009-2010.
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 is known far and wide as the hub of Washington College’s writing community. For a quarter of a century 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; ; the Washington Post dubbed it “the Carnegie Hall of literary readings.”
The 2009-2010 Washington College itinerary of literary events will feature:
Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein-Graff Lecture:
“Demystifying the Academic Game: How Schools and Colleges Can Demystify Academic Intellectual Culture for All Students”
Litrenta Lecture Hall, Friday, September 4, 3:30 p.m.
Gerald Graff, prominent literary historian and educator, author of Professing Literature and Beyond the Culture Wars, and the president of the Modern Language Association in 2008, focuses in his recent work, Clueless in Academe, on ways that “schooling obscures the life of the mind” and argues that schools can develop better writers and thinkers among all students, not just the high-achieving few, when teachers share with students the basic rules and moves of the game of academic argumentation that they use themselves.
Putting his argument into practice, Graff co-wrote in 2006 with his wife, Cathy Birkenstein, a textbook for teaching writing, “They Say/I Say”: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. The book is widely used in schools and colleges and continues Graff’s longstanding efforts to revitalize American education. Graff and Birkenstein both teach at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Poetry Reading by Mark Nowak
Rose O’Neill Literary House, Tuesday, September 15, 4:30 p.m.
Mark Nowak, the new Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College, is a documentary poet, social critic, and labor activist; his writings include Shut Up Shut Down, a New York Times “Editor’s Choice.” Nowak’s recently published book on coal mining disasters in the United States and China, Coal Mountain Elementary, was hailed by Howard Zinn as a “a stunning educational tool.”
Nowak’s unique work in bringing innovative aesthetics and working-class communities into dialogue has resulted in a dynamic array of projects and publications. His poetry, similarly, has engaged central issues of work, family and community. He is one of a dozen poets to have been included in the seminal anthology American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics.
A reception will follow Nowak’s reading, affording the opportunity for the public to meet the Literary House’s new Director.
Marla Miller Lecture:
“Betsy Ross: The Life Behind the Legend”
Litrenta Lecture Hall, Wednesday, September 16, 7:30 p.m.
Marla Miller, the 2009-10 Patrick Henry Writing Fellow, is an Associate Professor and Director of the Public History Program at the University of Massachusetts. Her book The Needle’s Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution won the 2006 Costume Society of America’s Millia Davenport Publication Award. Related articles have appeared in The New England Quarterly, The William and Mary Quarterly and other publications. Miller’s primary research interest is women’s work in pre-industrial America. During her year’s residency in Chestertown, she will continue working on a forthcoming biography of that most misunderstood early American craftswoman, Betsy Ross.
The Patrick Henry Writing Fellowship, provided by Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and supported by The Rose O’Neill Literary House, offers a yearlong residency to authors doing innovative work on America’s founding era and its legacy.
Fiction Reading by Mary Gordon
Sophie Kerr Room, Thursday, September 17, 4:30 p.m.
Mary Gordon is the author of several bestselling novels as well as short stories, memoirs, essays and criticism. She is known for her investigations of Catholic family life, Catholic spirituality, thwarted love, moral struggle, personal sacrifice, female identity and family pain.
Gordon is often praised for her deep insights, lyrical writing, and what Los Angeles Times critic Ellen Akins called “her delicate rendering of the drama of consciousness.” Recent books by Gordon include the biography Joan of Arc, the essay collection Seeing Through Places: Reflections on Geography and Identity, the novel Spending: A Utopian Divertimento, and the bestselling memoir of her secretive, tormented father, The Shadow Man. Gordon’s latest novel, Pearl, is the the story of a single mother who sets out to prevent her daughter from killing herself in a hunger strike in Dublin.
“Demystifying Book Publishing: A Publishing talk with Irina Reyn”
Rose O’Neill Literary House, Thursday, September 24, 4:30 p.m.
Author Irina Reyn, the 2009 Mary Wood Fellow at Washington College, worked in book publishing for several years. Her presentation will take the audience on a practical journey through the process of getting the written word from laptop or notebook and onto the bookstore shelves.
Reading by Irina Reyn and Washington College Students
Casey Academic Center Forum, Saturday, September 26, 1:30 p.m.
Irina Reyn’s first novel, What Happened to Anna K., a bold reimagining of Anna Karenina in modern New York, was named one of the best books of 2008 by The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly, and is described by Philip Lopate as a “witty, psychologically astute and immensely pleasurable novel.”
Reyn is editor of Living on the Edge of the World: New Jersey Writers Take on the Garden State and has published widely in One Story, Post Road, Tin House, Los Angeles Times, Town & Country Travel, The Forward, Nextbook, Ballyhoo Stories, San Francisco Chronicle, The Moscow Times and in several anthologies.
Born in Moscow, Reyn currently divides her time between Brooklyn and Pittsburgh, where she is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. A booksigning will follow her September 26 reading.
Initiated in 2007, the Mary Wood Fellowship is extended bi-annually to an emerging female writer. It is made possible by the continued support of author Mary Wood.
Maxine Susman Reading: “Wartime Address”
Rose O’Neill Literary House, Tuesday, September 29, 5 p.m.
“Wartime Address” is a poem sequence based on the memoir of Jean Wetzel. It tells of her flight from Paris during World War II. Dr. Maxine Susman is Professor of English at
Caldwell College where she teaches poetry, literature and writing across the curriculum. Her poems have appeared in several dozen journals and anthologies, including Paterson Literary Review, Colere, Ekphrasis, Earth’s Daughters, The Dogwood Journal, The Chesapeake Reader, Blueline, and forthcoming in Alehouse and Poet Lore. Her two other books of poetry are Gogama (2006) and Familiar (Fall 2009). She belongs to the performance group Cool Women.
Fiction Reading by Jeff Talarigo
Sophie Kerr Room, Thursday, October 1, 4:30 p.m.
Jeff Talarigo is the author of the award winning novel The Pearl Diver, which won the 2005 American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Foundation Award and was named a 2005 Kiriyama Prize Notable Book. His second novel, The Ginseng Hunter, noted as one of the “Best Books of 2008” by NPR and an American Library Association’s “Notable Books for 2009,” was released in paperback in April 2009. Talarigo currently lives in Boston, where he is working on a novel about 20th-century Gaza as seen through the eyes of a Palestinian woman.
Andrew Gibson Lecture:
“‘His Journey Westward’: Joyce’s The Dead, Irish History and Modernity”
Rose O’Neill Literary House, Monday, October 12, 4:30 p.m.
Dr. Andrew Gibson is Research Professor of Modern Literature and Theory at Royal
Holloway, University of London, and a permanent advisory editor of the James Joyce
Quarterly. He also is a member of the editorial board of Limit(e) Beckett, the new Anglo-
French journal in Beckett scholarship. His published works include James Joyce: A Critical Life, Towards a Postmodern Theory of Narrative and numerous other books.
Fiction Reading by Dan Chaon
Sophie Kerr Room, Tuesday, October 13, 4:30 p.m.
Born and raised in Nebraska, Dan Chaon is the author of the short-story collections Fitting Ends and Other Stories and Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. It was listed as one of the ten best books of 2001 by the American Library Association, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Las Vegas Mercury, and Entertainment Weekly and was also cited by Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post, and The New York Times as one of the Notable Books of the year.
Chaon’s stories have appeared in the Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize annual anthologies, as well as such noteworthy literary journals as TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, American Short Fiction, Crazyhorse, Gettysburg Review, MSS, Story, Helicon, Mid-American Review and elsewhere. His first novel, You Remind Me of Me, was released in 2004 and praised by Publishers Weekly for its “elegant prose, haunting plot and knockout literary excellence.”
Chaon’s latest novel, Await Your Reply, has recently been published by Ballantine Books. A book that weaves in elements of the supernatural, it was hailed by the New York Times as “a strange, stunning new novel…. Mr. Chaon succeeds in both creating suspense and making it pay off, but Await Your Reply also does something even better. …Mr. Chaon manages to bridge the gap between literary and pulp fiction with a clever, insinuating book equally satisfying to fans of either genre.”
Chaon currently teaches creative writing at Oberlin College, where he holds the position of Houck Associate Professor in the Humanities.
“Song Yet Sung: A Reading by James McBride”
Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts, Thursday, October 29, 4:30 p.m.
Best-selling author and musician James McBride has written for the Washington Post, People, the Boston Globe, Essence, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. He is the author of The Color of Water and Miracle at St. Anna. In his new book, Song Yet Sung, McBride follows a group of slaves as they escape to freedom through the swamps of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Song Yet Sung was chosen by the Maryland Humanities Council to represent the One Maryland One Book program for 2009, and was chosen by Washington College for its First-Year Book program. The First-Year Book program gives new students a common experience over the summer and introduces them to Washington College’s tradition of bringing great writers to campus.
Poetry reading with Taije Silverman
Rose O’Neill Literary House, Wednesday, November 11, 4:30 p.m.
Taije Silverman’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Shenandoah, Ploughshares, Five Points, Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner and other journals. The recipient of the 2005–2007 Emory University Creative Writing Fellowship, as well as residencies from the MacDowell Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, she is now Assistant Visiting Professor at Ursinus College, outside of Philadelphia.
Silverman’s first collection of poems, Houses Are Fields, was published by LSU Press in 2009, and selected as the debut book in the Sea Cliff Series. Thrice nominated for the Pushchart Prize, she has received the Anais Nin Award from the Academy of American Poets.
Fiction reading by Debra Spark
Sophie Kerr Room, Thursday, November 12, 4:30 p.m.
Debra Spark is the author of the novels Coconuts for the Saint and The Ghost of Bridgetown and editor of the anthology Twenty Under Thirty: Best Stories by America’s New Young Writers. Her thoughts on the craft of writing have been collected in Curious Attractions: Essays on Fiction Writing. Her short fiction, essays, articles and book reviews have appeared in Esquire, Ploughshares, Epoch, Agni, Gingko Tree Review, narrativemagazine.com, The New York Times, New England Travel and Life, Food and Wine, Yankee, Down East, The Washington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle, among other places. She has been the recipient of several awards including a Pushcart Prize and the John Zacharis/Ploughshares Award for Best First Book.
Spark currently teaches at Colby College and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Her latest novel, Good for the Jews, is being published this fall by University of Michigan Press.
Poetry reading by Leslie Harrison
Rose O’Neill Literary House, Thursday, November 19, 4:30 p.m.
Leslie Harrison’s Displacement was the 2008 Katherine Nason Bakeless winner in poetry from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. It was published by Mariner Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, in July of 2009. She has poems and prose published in Poetry, Southwest Review, The New Republic, Barn Owl Review, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. She holds graduate degrees from The Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Irvine where she completed her MFA in 2006. She has been a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and a fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.
David Orvis Lecture: “Shakespeare’s Queer Marriages”
Sophie Kerr Room, Miller Library, Wednesday, March 3, 2010, 4:30 p.m.
David L. Orvis, a 2002 graduate of Washington College, earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of Arizona. He is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Faculty Affiliate in Women’s Studies at Appalachian State University. He is working on his first book, tentatively titled Performing Queer Marriage on the Early Modern Stage, as well as co-editing a collection of essays on Psalms in the Early Modern World.
Fiction Reading by Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket
Decker Theatre, Friday, March 26, 2010, 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 2010 will be a much-anticipated reading by bestselling author Daniel Handler. His intricate and witty writing style has won him millions of fans both young and old. He is the author of the novels The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth and, most recently, Adverbs. Under the pen name Lemony Snicket, he has written the wildly popular children’s books known collectively as A Series of Unfortunate Events, which have sold more than 53 million copies and were the basis of a film starring Jim Carrey.
Handler also has worked intermittently in film and music, most recently in collaboration with composer Nathaniel Stookey on a piece commissioned and recorded by the San Francisco Symphony. The prolific author’s current projects include a fourth novel for adults, a picture book in collaboration with Maira Kalman, and the script for the long-awaited second Lemony Snicket movie.
Eric Mallin Lecture:
“‘In spite of my own nature’: King Lear and the Perverse”
Sophie Kerr Room, Miller Library, Monday, April 12, 2010, 4:30 p.m.
Eric S. Mallin is Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written Inscribing the Time: Shakespeare and the End of Elizabethan England and Godless Shakespeare, as well as numerous articles and reviews. His lecture on King Lear is part of a book in progress called Perverse: The Hidden History of the Normal.
Michael Drout Lecture:
“Whole Worlds Out of Single Words: Tolkien and Language”
Litrenta Lecture Hall, Thursday, April 15, 2010, 4:30 p.m.
The Prentice Professor and Chair of the English Department at Wheaton College, Michael Drout is a specialist in Anglo-Saxon Literature and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. He is the editor of Beowulf and the Critics, a collection of Tolkien’s scholarly work, as well as the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia and the scholarly journal Tolkien Studies. Drout is also the author of How Tradition Works, a study of 10th-century Anglo-Saxon poetics, and he has lately dedicated himself to producing oral performances of the entire Anglo-Saxon poetic corpus in podcast form.
Washington College/PEN World Voices Fellow in International Letters
Spring 2010, date TBA
Each spring, an international writer visits Washington College for a residency and series of lectures on his or her work before heading to the PEN American Center’s
World Voices Festival in New York City. Past Fellows include French graphic novelist Emmanuel Guibert and Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah.
XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics
Spring 2010 Readings, dates TBA
Nearly 15 years ago, new Literary House Director Mark Nowak created XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics, a journal that brought together writers in social documentary from a variety of fields—anthropology, poetry, performance studies, theater and history. XCP has since published writings from emerging young writers in these and other fields as well as established scholars and artists such as Lila Abu-Lughod, Amiri Baraka, Kamau Brathwaite, and Adrienne Rich. In addition to bringing XCP to Washington College, Nowak will inaugurate a series of readings in spring 2010 by regular contributors to the journal. Please check the Rose O’Neill Literary House website for complete details on these events.
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.