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New Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing

Alan Filreis

The University's three key writing resources will be affiliated for the first time through the creation of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, SAS has announced.

The Center, which will open in July, will include the Critical Writing Program (currently known as the Writing Program) and the Creative Writing Program currently housed in the English department. It will be closely affiliated with the Kelly Writers House, which is a thriving non-curricular writing community sponsored by the Office of the Provost. The directors of the Critical Writing Program and the Creative Writing Program will report to Kelly Family Professor of English Alan J. Filreis, who will direct the new Center. The director of the Writers House will continue to report to Dr. Filreis by virtue of his position as faculty director, a role he has held since the founding of the Writers House in 1995-96.

"Al brings an immense energy and vision to everything that he does," said SAS Associate Dean for Arts and Letters Rebecca Bushnell. "We're delighted that he will bring that energy into this exciting comprehensive initiative."

The new Center will further strengthen the School's already strong commitment to the writing seminars through which all Penn undergraduates fulfill their writing requirement. There will be a renewed commitment to offering introductory writing experiences across many departments and disciplines, to the training of the instructors, and to the quality of the services supporting these seminars, the Writing Center, and Writing Advisors. The integration of Critical Writing and Creative Writing and their new close ties to the Writers House will unite the traditional writing curriculum with the dynamic out-of-the-classroom writers' workshops, symposia, readings, student-created literary projects and publications, and other activities of the Kelly Writers House. The new Center will make it possible, for example, for the Writers House Fellows, world-renowned visiting writers, to conduct for-credit writing courses for undergraduates, allowing students to learn from and interact with eminent writers in a small-class format.

Dr. Bushnell noted that this new structure will make possible interactions and collaborations that have not existed at Penn and do not exist in such a combination at any other college or university. "This is exactly why the provost has sponsored the creation of the all-university ‘hubs,'" said Dr. Peter Conn, deputy provost, who has worked closely with the Writers House, Penn's first hub. "We have always hoped that creative ventures like the Writers House would eventually find their own natural connections to the curriculum and make a larger whole out of the sum of the parts."

"I'm especially excited," said Dr. Filreis, "that for the first time, students who enroll in writing seminars in order to fulfill their writing requirement will begin to realize that there are subsequent courses in writing they might take and indeed that there's an entire culture of writing and writers at Penn beyond the first-year seminar. A number of students, I expect, will follow the flow of creative students from introductory writing seminars to more advanced seminars in fiction, screenwriting, expository writing, playwrighting, poetry writing, feature writing, and journalism and will discover an absolutely vital community of emerging and established writers."

"I am simply ecstatic over the appointment of Professor Al Filreis as director of the SAS Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing," said Dean of the College Richard R. Beeman. While the College has already made substantial progress in improving the quality of those courses that our students take to fulfill their writing requirement, Al Filreis will bring to the writing program at Penn a breadth of vision and a level of energy and vitality that will expand the impact of the program all across the curriculum and well beyond. By bringing together the resources of the College Writing Program, our excellent Creative Writing Program, and the intellectual vitality of Kelly Writers House, and by empowering Al Filreis to help create the synergy among those entities, I believe that we will soon be able to claim quite confidently that Penn's writing program is the very best in the nation."

Dr. Kerry Sherin will continue in her role as director of the Kelly Writers House. Dr. Gregory Djanikian will continue to direct the Creative Writing Program, now housed in the new Center. A director of the Critical Writing Program will be appointed in the coming months.

The new Center will be housed at 3808 Walnut Street, providing convenient access to the audiences and writers at the Kelly Writers House, which is located at 3805 Locust Walk immediately behind the Center's new building. This new site will include the Writing Center and Writing Lab and a newly renovated seminar room offering state-of-the-art technology for the teaching of writing. The Center will also host the equipment for digital audio archiving of the presentations of visiting writers.


  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 18, January 21, 2003