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New Chapter in Alumni Education

Dr. Alan Filreis, the Class of 1942 Professor of English and faculty director of the Kelly Writers House, has recruited some of his colleagues to join groups of alumni in book-discussion groups–by e-mail–in the coming year. The Writers House Virtual Book Groups, as he calls them, "make possible smart and interesting conversations, carried on across Penn generations as well as across space and time."
    The first group will convene from January 15 to February 15, 2000, and will be led by Filreis himself; the readings will be one story each by Saul Bellow and Mary McCarthy.
    In March, Dr. James O’Donnell, professor of classical studies, will lead alumni in discussing Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire; Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader will be the topic of rare-book librarian Dr. Daniel Traister’s group, beginning later that month. Dr. Ann Matter, the R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Religious Studies and a women’s studies scholar, will convene a discussion of two short fictions, Flannery O’Connor’s "The Temple of the Holy Ghost" and Bernard Malamad’s "The Silver Crown," from mid-September to mid-October, 2000.
    Any alumna or alumnus may participate; the only requirement is a working e-mail account and Internet access. The project is based in part on "Alumverse"–an intensive seminar for which some 150 alumni gathered virtually with Filreis in 1996 to talk about modern poetry.
    Filreis and Writers House Director Kerry Sherin C’85 will experiment with a fifth and different alumni book group—a group for New Yorkers. From mid-April to mid-May, they will be joined electronically by alumni writers Jennifer Egan C’85 and Ellen Umansky C’91–both also New Yorkers; the four will lead alumni from the region in discussions of fiction from Egan’s book, Emerald City, and several of Umansky’s short stories. "The regional restriction is informal," Sherin said. "It is meant only to enable an experiment in helping to create a local, albeit virtual, intellectual community among Penn’s former students."
    "We like the idea that after a month of heated virtual exchanges about these two fine Penn writers," Filreis said, "we all might decide to get together–actually to meet each other and continue the conversation live, face to face." If the experiment works, the Writers House will sponsor more local groups in 2001.
   
For more information, see (www.english.upenn.edu/~wh/bookgroups/). To register, write to <whbook@english.upenn.edu>.


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Copyright 1999 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 3/31/99